July 26, 2006

If the Walls of the Brill Building Could Talk…

July 26th, 2006

Brill Building Doorway Cornice

In the first act of Jersey Boys, Bob Gaudio talks about how musicians could go to the Brill Building to find a publisher and printer; cut a demo; promote the record; and cut a deal with radio promoters, all within this one building. In the show, you’ll see Bob and Frankie inside of the Brill Building, knocking on doors, trying to get their big break. They get three doors slammed in their faces, including a record executive who tells them to “come back when you’re black!”

On our latest trip to NYC, we went in search of the Brill Building, which is located at 1619 Broadway between 49th and 50th Streets. One of the distinguishing features of this Art Deco building is the polished brass that surrounds the entrance with a bust of what we assumed is one of the Brill Brothers as a centerpiece above the doorway. As we entered the building, I imagined all of the aspiring singers and songwriters that had entered this building over the last several decades with their hopes and dreams of making it big in the music business. The lobby of the Brill Building was filled with brass and a hall of mirrors, a motif that was typical of that era. As I looked at the directory of current tenants, which included a number of recording studios, I kept imaging what happened in those hallways over 40 years ago.

Here’s the story of the Brill Building: In 1931, a ten-story plus penthouse was constructed as a bank building. By 1932, The Brill Building came into being. The building was named after the Brill Brothers, who owned the clothing store that was first located in the street level corner. Although the original plans were to house bank-like tenancies, a deepening Depression forced the owners to rent space to music publishers, since there were few other interested tenants. The first three publishers in the Brill Building– Southern Music, Mills Music and Famous-Music–were soon joined by others.

By 1962, the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses. Some of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century worked in the building, including Paul Anka, Jim Croce, Bobby Darin, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Neil Sedaka, Carly Simon, Paul Simon and James Taylor, among many others. Famous Brill Building musical partners have included Carole King and Gerry Goffin; Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Hal David and Burt Bacharach, just to name a few. Today, the Brill Building is still home to many music producers including Sound One (a film post-production house), Colony Records, and Lorne Michael’s Broadway Video company.

For more information on the Brill Building, check out:


  1. My father George Wiener and I had offices in the Brill Building for over twenty five years. Our company was Wemar Music Corp. Some of the songs we published were “I’m Beginning To See The Light” by
    Duke Ellington, “Shout” by the Isley Brothers (who were signed to Wemar as staff writers and hundreds of
    more classic R&B and Pop songs.

    The information you provided in you artcle is not
    correct….There was no mentions of any of the great
    black songwriters who roamed the halls of the Brill.
    Otis Blackwell, Luther Dixon, Charlie Singleton,
    Don Covay, Bennie Benjamin, Jimmy Williams, Billy Dawn Smith, to name just a very few, are never mentioned in any way as writers in the Brill.

    The only writers you mentioned that were from The Brill Building were Leiber & Stoller, Pomus & Shuman.
    Aldon Music and all the great writers signed to them
    had nothing I repeat nothing to do with the Brill.

    Doc Pomus wrote an article in Billboard many years ago
    about this…..He was also very upset by the
    injustice done to some of the great black songwriters
    of our time. Sincerely…..Stuart Wiener

    Comment by Stuart Wiener — July 6, 2009 @ 7:15 am

  2. Why is it that there is no such facility as the BRILL BLDG. today – with so many non-musical celebrities cutting music who, obviously, have NO musical skills of their own to speak of ???
    Why is there NO location for a “hit factory” today – OR – if there is, then where is it ???????

    Comment by spike melon — March 20, 2012 @ 8:50 am

  3. Stuart Wiener, is there somewhere I can buy the sheet music for To the Aisle.


    Comment by Ann — April 26, 2014 @ 11:18 am

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