A brief history of Louie Louie and Richard Berry
(for a lot of additional info read the liner notes of the Rhino 'Best Of Louie Louie' compilation albums Volume 1 and Volume 2
1935 On April 11 Richard Berry is born in Extension, Lousiana. On the age of 1 he and his family move to Los Angeles.
childhood Suffers from a hip-injury and has to walk on crutches until he is six. Learns to play the ukulele.
Early 1950s Richard Berry plays in various LA bands: The Flamingos, The Flairs (a doowop and close harmony group). He also sings the lead vocal with The Robins (later to be known as The Coasters) and had the leading 'gangsta' vocal (however uncredited) part in their big hit 'Riot In Cell Block #9'.
He also sang a duet with Etta James titled 'Roll With Me Henry' in which he played the 'Henry' part.
In this period Richard Berry starts to write his own material, inspired by the various music styles he's working in.
1955 He signs for Flip records and starts his own group, The Pharaohs. Also works with a latin & calypso band Rick Rillera & The Rhythm Rockers.
1956 Inspired by the repertoire he hears from Rick Rillera he writes 'Louie Louie' (alledgedly on a napkin) and records it a year later with The Pharaohs.
1957 'Louie Louie' is released by Flip Records on a 45 single as B-side to 'You Are My Sunshine'. When 'Louie Louie' attracts more attention than its A-side the single is rereleased with 'Louie Louie' on A- and 'Rock Rock Rock' as new B-side. These singles becomes a minor local hit in the LA-area.
1959 Despite several 45-releases and some minor attention Richard Berry gets no commercial success. Because he wants to get married (to Dorothy Adams) but is totally out of cash he sells his musical rights to Max Feirtag (owner of Flip Records and Limax Music Publishing) for $750, in the conviction that his songs will not bring him any commercial gain in the future
In that same year 'Louie Louie' emerges in the Pacific Nortwest; it gest some radio airplay over there and is on the repertoire of several bands from the Seattle/Tacoma area. The 'Spanish Castle' is an important venue where many bands perform, among which Rockin' Robin Roberts And The Wailers are one of the more succesful. They hear 'Louie Louie' and decide to put in on their repertoire. The latin/calypso-influence is removed and 'Louie Louie' becomes a rock 'n' roll song for the first time as well as a local cult-club-hit.
1961 Rockin' Robin Roberts And The Wailers decide to put 'Louie Louie' on record. The yell 'Okay, let's give it to them right now!' is heard for the first time.
Once more 'Louie Louie' becomes a minor local hit, this time in the Seattle/Tacoma area. It also gets played quite often by some Oregon radio station and lots of local bands (Sonics, Ventures) put it on their repertoire.
1963 Two bands from Portland, Oregon record 'Louie Louie' within a week independently from each other. Paul Revere And The Raiders (originally from Boise, Idaho) have a bit more success with it than the other band, The Kingsmen. The latter recorded their version as a demo under difficult technical circumstances (they consider the recording a failure and are very dissatisfied that they have to pay $50 for the recording) which results in a rather chaotic and unintelligible rendition of the song.
Later that year their 'Louie Louie' suddenly gets airplay in Boston. Due to Jack Ely's unintelligible lyrics rumour has it over there, that there might be serious obcenities involved. This rumour spreads quick over the whole nation and hence The Kingsmen's 'Louie Louie' becomes a national hit and reaches a Billboard #2 position on December 7th, 1963. A Belgian singing nun prevents it from becoming #1.
1964 The state of Indiana bans radio airplay of Louie Louie and as a consequence of worried parents' letters concerning the spiritual health of their children the FBI starts an investigation after the alledgedly obscenity of the 'Louie Louie' lyrics. This quest will continue until the end of 1965 when they decide that the lyrics are unintelligible at any speed and no further investigation is to be conducted in this way. Richard Berry's comment to the whole rumble: "If I told you the words, you wouldn't believe them anyway".
1966 The Kingsmen's version re-enters the Billboard charts briefly, alledgedly again due to the obscenity-rumours.
1983 During the years following 'Louie Louie' is on the repertoire of almost any (starting) band and becomes an obligatory song in almost every style of music, culminating in Rhino Records' release of 'The Best Of Louie Louie' a whole LP dedicated just to this one song. KFJC radio broadcasts 'Maximum Louie Louie', 63 hours and 800 versions long.
1986 Richard Berry regains a part of his musical rights to the song aided by the 'Artists Rights Enforcement'.
During the years 1985 tot 1988 'Louie Louie' becomes the subject and anthem of many nationwide parades and fundraising campaigns. In 1988 Rhino releases another 'Best Of Louie Louie' compilation.
1992 'Louie Louie' is sold to Windswept Pacific and Richard Berry regains the complete rights to 'Louie Louie'. At last he starts cashing in for the song.
1993 Richard Berry gets some substantial payment for his song: about $2 million.
1994 He starts having heart problems and has an operation in December.
1997 On January 23 Richard Berry's heart gives up. He dies aged 63 at home in Los Angeles in his sleep and is buried at Inglewood Cemetery.
1998 The Kingsmen finally get their royalties after a five year lasting lawsuit.
2005 Benton Harbor - May 5th, 2005 (!)
The McCord Middle School band from Benton Harbor, Michigan is ordered by Superintendent Paula Dawning not to perform 'Louie Louie' in Saturday's Grand Floral Parade, held as part of the Blossomtime Festival.
The song's allegedly raunchy lyrics were the reason the song was not appropriate for Benton Harbor students to play while representing the district even though the marching band wasn't going to sing it.