Local Obituaries

Sid Tepper, who wrote more than 50 songs for Elvis Presley, dies at 96

RED ROSES BLOOM ON THE POP CHART: Sid Tepper, then 90 in 2008 in Surfside, held a copy of his most famous song, ‘Red Roses for a Blue Lady,’ which he co-wrote in 1948.
RED ROSES BLOOM ON THE POP CHART: Sid Tepper, then 90 in 2008 in Surfside, held a copy of his most famous song, ‘Red Roses for a Blue Lady,’ which he co-wrote in 1948. Miami Herald file

Songwriters seek inspiration in all sorts of manner. Sid Tepper turned pressure into songs.

Right from the start, the first big hit he wrote with his songwriting partner Roy Bennett was a charming tune called Red Roses for a Blue Lady, which became a Top 10 hit twice in early 1949 via recordings by Vaughn Monroe and Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.

Yet the song was written after Tepper had a tiff with his new bride, Lillian.

“I sent her some red roses and wrote on the card, ‘I’m sorry, red roses for a blue lady.’ And about a week later, I thought, ‘What a great idea for a title, and the song wrote itself,” Tepper said in a Miami Herald profile in 2008 on his 90th birthday. The town of Surfside marked that occasion as Sid Tepper Day. Tepper and his wife were married for 58 years until her death in 2005.

Tepper died Friday at 96. He lived in Surfside for more than 40 years and most recently at Williams Island in Aventura.

“One of his biggest joys was walking to Harding Avenue every day and delivering his home made tuna fish sandwiches to the shop owners, bankers. They all loved him!” said his daughter Jackie Tepper.

That love song he wrote for her mother had legs. In 1965, vocalists Vic Dana and Wayne Newton and instrumentalist Bert Kaempfert turned Roses into a Top 40 hit all over again.

“One thing I’ve learned is you can’t leave love in your will, you have to give it while you’re living,” Tepper said at 90. Often, he poured the emotion out in the lyrics he composed.

Beatlemania and the resulting British Invasion wreaked havoc with many American songwriting teams. Even a hot contemporary songwriter like Neil Sedaka went cold from 1963 to 1974.

But not Tepper and Bennett who, during their partnership from 1945 to 1970, published more than 300 songs. Among the artists who recorded a Tepper-Bennett original: the Beatles (Glad All Over, recorded live for the BBC), Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney and Britain’s “Elvis,” Cliff Richard, who cut 21 Tepper/Bennett tunes, including his breakthrough, The Young Ones, in 1961.

Elvis Presley was, however, Tepper’s biggest client even though the two never met in person. Presley recorded 56 Tepper-Bennett songs for his string of movies in the 1960s, including G.I. Blues, Hawaiian Sunset, New Orleans and Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce from the 1965 flick Girl Happy.

A year earlier, Tepper dealt with pressure again. This time The King was in need of a closing line. Tepper was writing songs for Viva Las Vegas, a 1964 musical starring Presley and Ann-Margret. The Lady Loves Me, a duet for the stars, was in the can when the phone rang. Director George Sidney wanted the last line of the song to comment on a scene in which Ann-Margret pushes Presley into a pool.

He delivered “the gentleman’s all wet.” Everyone was happy.

“Talk about pressure and deadlines!” Tepper quipped in the Herald article. In 2002, the songwriting team was honored in Memphis by Lisa Marie Presley for their contributions to her father’s catalog.

Tepper was born June 25, 1918 in Brooklyn, a hotbed for musical talent that would later spawn Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow. He was already writing songs and poetry in elementary school and scored a staff writing job with publishing company Mills Music in New York City after serving with the Army during World War II. There, he and childhood friend Bennett began their musical partnership.

After a heart attack, he retired to Surfside in the early 1970s. He would still write songs and poems and he’d sing at family events for fun. “He had an amazing voice and sounded a lot like Elvis when he sang,” Jackie Tepper said.

“He was never impressed with himself, it was his job. He loved it, but it was not something he bragged about,” she said. “My dad was a real family man and preferred hanging out at home with his family and close friends over going out. He’s left an amazing legacy, that will be listened to and enjoyed forever. To have done all of this and lived almost 97 years is more than anyone can ask for. He is our hero.”

Tepper is survived by his children Susan Tepper-Kopacz, Michelle Tepper-Kapit, Brian, Warren and Jackie Tepper; grandchildren Rachel Reinberg, Jennifer Kopacz, Jessica, David, Joanna, Maxx and Samantha Tepper; great-grandchildren Ben, Sara and Lily Reinberg.

Services will be held at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Levitt-Weinstein Memorial Chapels, 18840 W Dixie Hwy., North Miami Beach.

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