“A.K.A. Doc Pomus,” from Clear Lake Historical Productions, presents a tribute to one of music’s great song writers who’s skill at writing rock, ballads and blues ended up influencing songwriters, musicians and lovers for decades.
Directed by William Hechter, “A.K.A. Doc Pomus,” features interviews with Doc’s collaborators and friends, including Dr. John, Ben E. King, Joan Osborne, Shawn Colvin, Dion, Gerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and B.B. King.
“A.K.A. Doc Pomus” is narrated, in part, by the Doc himself, along with intimate interviews with his family including his first wife Willi Burke and their children, Sharon and Geoffrey Felder. His brother, New York Divorce attorney, Raoul Felder and Cousin Gladys Kaufman also appear.
Jerome Solon Felder was born in Brooklyn in 1925, to immigrant parents. Early pictures show him poised in a boxer’s stance; he was ready to take on the world, he wanted to become a heavyweight boxer.
The dreams of physical dominance ended at age six when he contracted polio at a summer camp. To hear him explain, he said, he woke up one morning and couldn’t move his legs. And he never walked without crutches again.
Doc’s early musical influences came from the radio. Pulled by a force bigger than himself to the blues side of the dial, he began to believe that he could become this soulful singer, that the ache in his heart that produced a melody unheard from a white boy could one day become his life.
Jerome got his lucky break one night at a Greenwich Village jazz club when he lied about himself to get past the owner and ended up singing the blues to a sold out crowd. So not to embarrass his mother, he adopted the name Doc Pomus so she wouldn’t have to see his name on the marquee.
To see this documentary and see him, it is hard to believe that this, as he described himself, a fat, paralyzed, white Jewish kid from Brooklyn, could churn out some of the greatest rock n’ roll hits of the 1950’s and ’60’s and even 1970’s.
Hits that would turn a generation upside down, tune its ear to the rock, ballads and blues, and create throngs of screaming girls; Hits that spawned a musical revolution and ended up influencing any musical connoisseur for decades that followed.
The pictures of Doc Pomus make folks tilt their heads and wonder, astonished that this crippled, a word he used, kid from Brooklyn would be able to live the life in his mind, the life that had him singing in smoky lounges of a sorrow that few experienced and even fewer could articulate.
Doc Pomus, had a passion for the blues, as he defined himself he was “A white boy hooked on the blues – not a monkey on my back but a midnight lady with a love lock on my soul.”
That love lock, produced over 1000 songs, and influenced generations of teens, singers and cultural icons. Writing for Elvis, the Drifters, Ben E. King, Ray Charles, Doc Pomus and Mort Schulman at their peak had thirteen songs in the top ten.
Relating to the Negro struggle, during this time segregation and the struggle for Civil Rights was filling the newspapers and producing images that any person with a soul would want to champion the fight against.
He was making the notes from the Negro blues that he was signing until 4:00am in New York’s Greenwich Village transition him from singer, his passion, to song writer, his soul, and he headed uptown to the Brill Building, where songwriters could peddle their wares to the hundreds of company looking to buy.
According to Ben E. King who related his memories of Doc, someone all were acquainted and few knew said, “You got to live some to sing the blues.”
Doc may have been crippled in body but he soared in his mind where he was free and living his dream, of making love to the most beautiful women, of a time when everyone would be young, a time that would be forever captured in summer.
Doc Pomus wrote such enduring and endearing classics as “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and hundreds of other hits.
During his collaboration with Kenny Hirsch, by this time is was the 1970’s he was asked to write something for an Easter Seals telethon for Ray Charles, he wrote “There is Always One More Time” which put him back on the top.
After the death of Elvis Presley, during this same time, Doc’s work from their collaboration began to generate solid royalties and the tide me over cash gigs, including the illegal gambling, he was able to drop.
For most of his life Doc was confined to crutches and a wheelchair, but he lived more during his sixty-five years than others could experience in several lifetimes.
“A.K.A. Doc Pomus” is the collection of Doc’s greatest hits and is packed with incomparable music and rare archival footage from his childhood, his life, home movies, television interviews and still photos with passages from his private journals are read by his close friend, Lou Reed.
For lovers of rock and roll, groupies and enthusiasts “A.K.A. Doc Pomus” is a must see. Solid Gold.
“A.K.A. Doc Pomus” opens in L.A. and New York October 4, 2013.