Ben Weisman, 85; helped write many songs for Presley

From Times Staff and Wire Reports
May 23, 2007


Ben Weisman, a classically trained pianist who helped write nearly 60 songs for Elvis Presley, including many for his movies, has died. He was 85.

Weisman died Sunday of complications of a stroke and pneumonia at a long-term care hospital in Los Angeles, his family told the Associated Press.

FOR THE RECORD:
Weisman obituary: The obituary of songwriter Ben Weisman in Wednesday's California section gave the name of music publishing company Hill and Range as Hill & Dale. It also said that he wrote songs for many pop stars, including "Lend Me Your Comb" for the Beatles. Weisman co-wrote that song with Kay Twomey and Fred Wise, and while the Beatles performed and recorded it, it was not written for them. Carl Perkins recorded it in the late 1950s. —

Weisman, whom Presley nicknamed "the mad professor," wrote or co-wrote a string of gold- and platinum-selling songs for Presley, including "Follow That Dream" and "Fame and Fortune."

Among the 57 songs are "Got a Lot O' Livin' to Do" for the movie "Loving You," "Wooden Heart" for "G.I. Blues," "Rock-a-Hula Baby" for "Blue Hawaii" and "Crawfish" for "King Creole."

"It seems like a long time ago that it all got started," Weisman said in a 1993 interview with The Times.

"But I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1956, and I was writing songs for Hill & Dale Publishing in the Brill Building in New York City.

"At the time, even though my background had been in jazz, pop and classical music, I was writing a lot of country songs — sometimes two a day — for people like Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb and Red Foley.

"One day my publisher, Jean Aberbach, called me into his office, told me that we had a new artist named Elvis Presley, and asked me to write some songs for him.

"So I watched Elvis on 'The Tommy Dorsey Show.' I didn't think it was anything special at first. I approached it the way I would any songwriting assignment, trying to figure out his range, and tried to get a feeling for his style. Then I sat down to write something for him."

He also wrote for other pop stars, including Barbra Streisand ("Love in the Afternoon"), Reba McEntire ("Silly Me"), Bobby Vee ("The Night Has a Thousand Eyes"), Conway Twitty ("Lonely Blue Boy") and the Beatles ("Lend Me Your Comb").

Weisman was born Nov. 16, 1921, in Providence, R.I., and raised in Brooklyn.

He studied classical piano as a teenager and at the Juilliard School and served as a music director for the Army Air Forces during World War II.

Services were pending.
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