Lester Sill- "The Chief"
1 / 13 / 1918 - 10 / 31 / 1994
Producer and publisher Lester Sill was an omnipresent force in the music industry for over 40 years. He is primarily credited with the development of West Coast R&B and rock roll, shepherding the fledgling career of the influential songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller before teaming with the legendary producer Phil Spector to found Philles Records, the premier U.S. pop label of the early '60s.
As a publisher, Lester Sill helped shape such highly successful artists as The Monkees and The Partridge Family. His creative direction at Screen Gems-Columbia Music was highly instrumental in the furthering of the success of many writers including Carol King, David Gates, Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Howie Greenfield, Boyce and Hart and Jack Keller among many others.
In his early years, he worked with Leiber and Stoller, Lionel Hampton, The Coasters, Duane Eddy, The Paris Sisters and many other artists. Together with Phil Spector, he ensured the success of such outstanding groups as The Ronettes, Bobby Sox, Blue Jeans and the wide-selling Crystals, offering the American public its first opportunity to appreciate the evolution of Rock & Roll music, going beyond Rhythm & Blues. A completely new dimension of Rock & Roll thereby emerged.
In 1950 Sill met Lieber in the L.A. record shop where the aspiring lyricist worked as a retail clerk and suggested he find a partner who could read and write music, spurring the beginning of Lieber's collaboration with Mike Stoller. Sill also produced the 1951 Jimmy Witherspoon effort "Real Ugly Woman," the first recorded Lieber and Stoller collaboration. Following the success of the duo's Big Mama Thornton hit "Hound Dog," Sill teamed with Lieber and Stoller in late 1953 to create Spark Records as well as their own publishing firm, Quintet Music, Inc.
Spark enjoyed immediate success with the Robins' RB smash "Riot in Cell Block #9". The group's follow-up, "Smokey Joe's Café," proved an even bigger hit, and in 1955 Spark sold its catalog to Atlantic Records, which in turn named Sill its national sales manager. The Robins’ evolved into the Coasters, with Sill serving as their manager. The Coasters would emerge as one of the most popular RB acts of the late '60s, generating a series of wry Lieber and Stoller-penned hits including "Down in Mexico," "Yakety Yak," and "Charlie Brown"; Sill also enjoyed chart success teaming with producer-songwriter Lee Hazlewood on 1958's "Rebel Rouser," the most notable of the 15 Top 40 instrumentals headlined by the renowned guitarist Duane Eddy and issued on the Dick Clark-owned Jamie label. In late 1959 Sill and Hazlewood formed Trey Records, a Hollywood-based imprint distributed by Atlantic. The label's signings included 18-year-old wunderkind Phil Spector, then fresh off the success of his group the Teddy Bears' chart-topping pop classic "To Know Him Is to Love Him."
At the end of 1961, Sill and Hazlewood shut down Trey but quickly formed a new label, Gregmark, as a vehicle for the Paris Sisters, a vocal trio with a series singles under its belt. While the Paris Sisters' Gregmark debut "Be My Boy" earned little notice, the follow-up, "I Love How You Love Me," cracked the U.S. Top Five. In late 1961 Sill and Spector inaugurated their own label, Philles, immediately reaching the Top 20 with the company's debut release, the Crystals' "There's No Other (Like My Baby)." Its 1962 follow-up, "Uptown.” Philles Records eventually became on of the most remarkable success stories in the history of American Music. By mid-1962 it was the most successful independent label in the U.S., scoring a series of Spector-produced classics including the Crystals' "He's a Rebel" and "Then He Kissed Me," Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans' "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and the Ronettes' "Be My Baby."
In 1964 Sill was instated as a consultant to one of the leading U.S music publishing companies, Screen Gems-Columbia Music. He remained there for 21 years, serving for 14 years as President. In April 1985, Mr. Sill became the President and Chief Operating Officer of Jobete Music Company, Inc. and served on the Board of Directors of both ASCAP and The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA). After seven years with Jobete, he retired remaining as a consultant for several more years. Along the way, Sill and devoted wife Harriet immersed their family in a music apparatus that has earned numerous Oscars, Grammy's and Emmy's. Following their father's lead veteran publisher Chuck Kaye, Music Supervisors Joel, Greg, and Lonnie, who in various executive capacities have enjoyed producing and publishing music for popular films, TV shows, soundtracks and albums for key industry leaders throughout the entertainment community.