Lee Pockriss on Apple Music

Lee Pockriss

Composer Lee Pockriss worked in settings from film to Broadway to pop, but he remains best known for a series of bubblegum-era smashes written in partnership with longtime collaborator Paul Vance, most notably Brian Hyland's "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," the Cuff Links' "Tracy," and Clint Holmes' "Playground of My Mind." Pockriss first earned attention writing for television, with musical credits including The U.S. Steel Hour, before teaming with fellow Brill Building composer Vance to author "Catch a Falling Star," a number one pop hit for crooner Perry Como in 1958. At the same time Pockriss also collaborated with Bob Hilliard, with whom he wrote the Avons' hit "Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Back Seat" as well as Anita Bryant's "My Little Corner of the World." In 1960 Pockriss reunited with Vance for "Four Little Heels (The Clickety Clack Song)," a minor chart entry for 16-year-old singer Hyland; with "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," Hyland rocketed to teen idol status, and the songwriters scored their second chart-topping hit. Despite their success Pockriss continued branching out -- also in 1960 he teamed with lyricist Anne Croswell for the Broadway stage hit Ernest in Love, inspired by Oscar Wilde's classic The Importance of Being Earnest, and two years later topped the pop charts with Shelley Fabares' "Johnny Angel," co-written with Lyn Duddy. In 1963 Pockriss and Croswell debuted the Broadway musical Tovarich, which earned star Viven Leigh the Tony Award for Best Actress. Pockriss nevertheless enjoyed his most consistent commercial success with Vance, although their track record pigeonholed the duo as novelty writers. Their next significant hit was the 1964 "Leader of the Pack" parody "Leader of the Laundromat," credited to the Detergents and featuring vocals by Aldon Music session singer Ron Dante. Pockriss and Vance collaborated with Dante on a recurring basis throughout the remainder of the decade, notching a minor hit with the singer's solo effort "Don't Stand Up in a Canoe" before installing him in their session group the Cuff Links, earning a Top Ten hit in 1969 with "Tracy." The following year Pockriss and Vance scored the animated feature The Phantom Tollbooth prior to notching their final major pop hit with Clint Holmes' "Playground of My Mind." A flop upon its initial mid-1972 release, the single later caught on at AM radio, and in the summer of 1973 ascended to the number two spot. As bubblegum's commercial fortunes waned, Pockriss returned to television, composing for Sesame Street and The Mike Douglas Show as well as the ABC primetime special Stanley the Ugly Duckling. ~ Jason Ankeny

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