Their first hit composition was "Hard Times," recorded by Charles Brown, which was a rhythm and blues hit in 1952. In 1953 they wrote "Hound Dog" for Big Mama Thornton; it became a major hit for Elvis Presley in 1956, although in a bowdlerized version. Their later songs often had lyrics more appropriate for pop music, and their combination of rhythm and blues with pop lyrics revolutionized pop and rock and roll.
They formed Spark Records in 1953. The label was later bought by Atlantic Records, who hired Leiber and Stoller as independent producers. At Atlantic they re-vitalized the careers of the Drifters and continued to turn out hits for the Coasters. Their songs from this period include "Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Riot in Cell Block #9," "Charlie Brown," "Stand By Me," "Save the Last Dance for Me," and "On Broadway," among numerous other hits (for the Coasters alone they wrote 24 songs which appeared in the national charts).
In the 1960s they founded and briefly owned Red Bird Records, which issued the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" and the Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love." After selling Red Bird Leiber and Stoller worked as independent producers and continued to write songs. Their best known song from this period is "Is That All There Is?," recorded by Peggy Lee in 1969.
They won Grammy awards for "Is That All There Is?" and for the cast album of Smokey Joe's Cafe, a 1995 Broadway musical based on their work.