Significant dates in the history of the world’s greatest rock song

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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 Road).”

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.

Last Updated 25 August 2007
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