THE RISE OF “LOUIE LOUIE”
Significant dates in the history of the world’s greatest rock song
|1955 – Richard Berry, a 21-year-old R&B singer
from Los Angeles, writes a calypso sea chantey about a lover’s lament as
told to a bartender named Louie Louie. He uses Afro-Cuban rhythms from
René Touzet’s “El Loco Cha Cha”,” and story lines from Chuck Berry’s
“Havana Moon” and Johnny Mercer’s “One For My Baby (And One More For The
1957 – Berry's song is released by Flip records as the B-side to "You Are My Sunshine." It sells 130,000 copies.
1960 – Rockin’ Robin Roberts, backed by the Wailers, turns "Louie Louie" into a rock 'n' roll song and introduces the phrase, "Let's give it to 'em, right now!" The song becomes a staple for Northwest groups like the Sonics, the Kingsmen, and Paul Revere and the Raiders.
1963 – April – The Kingsmen record their legendary version on April 6th. Paul Revere and the Raiders record their version shortly after in the same recording studio.
1963 – October – Boston deejay Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg features the Kingsmen version on his "Worst Record of the Week" segment. The public responds.
1963 – November – The Kingsmen’s "Louie Louie" debuts at #83 on Billboard's "Hot 100".
1964 – "Louie Louie" peaks at #2 on the Billboard chart ("Dominique," by the Singing Nun, is #1) and #1 on the Cashbox chart. The FBI begins a 30-month investigation into alleged "dirty lyrics." The song is banned in Indiana.
1965 – Although not on the charts, Wand Records continues to press and distribute copies of the Kingsmen single due to ongoing demand.
1966 – The FBI concludes the song is "incomprehensible at any speed". The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” version reenters the Billboard chart at #97. A soft rock version by the Sandpipers hits #20.
1978 – John Belushi releases a version to capitalize on the success of his “Animal House” movie. It rises to #89 on the Billboard chart.
1989 – The Fat Boys release a rap version that hits #88 on the Billboard chart.
Today – Artists worldwide continue to release versions of “Louie Louie” in a variety of formats and styles.
25 August 2007
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