Beans and oil inspired a song, then the title of a musical revue.

"I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of the oil well and the greasy spoon" ~Jerry Leiber Town Hall Theatre's next musical, Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Music of Leiber and Stoller, begins previews on March 2, 2017 and we asked the question, "Was Smokey Joe's Cafe a real place?". In a future article we will learn that these songwriters had a holistic approach to songwriting that included creating characters, building stories, and describing scenes. Each song was it's own production. With the song Smokey Joe's Cafe, setting was the main inspiration.

"On the corner of Beverly Boulevard and La Cienega, right in the middle of LA, was a pumping oil well. Next to the well was a beanery, Smokey Joe's. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of the oil well and the greasy spoon." ~Mike Leiber, Houndog

It is known that artists can be inspired by their surrounding or "setting" as we like to say in theatre. In the early 1950's when Leiber and Stoller were working for very little pay to write songs, they were surround by a Los Angeles that was starting to build around the oil wells causing them to be part of the everyday landscape and in view of favorite places to eat.


According to an article by, Restaurant-ing through history“'Beanery'” was less a name that an eating place would claim for itself than a slang term for a cheap and lowly lunch room. In these eating places baked beans was a staple dish going back at least as far as the mid-1800s."

One day while I was eatin' beans at Smokey Joe's Cafe.

Just sittin' diggin' all the scenes at Smokey Joe's Cafe.

A chick comes walking' through the door

that I had never seen before

at least I never saw her down at Smokey Joe's Cafe