Dispatches From The Land of Louie Louie

By
Home Inspector with King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. Home Inspector Lic #207

Some people who visit the state of Washington think that we are weird. That is especially so if they attend a parade or a professional sporting event. There is an underlying musical anthem present here that encourages others to smirk at us. That anthem would best be described as "Louie Louie" fever.

Yes, this state is infatuated with the tune Louie Louie. In fact, a few years ago there was a lobby to have it made the "official" Washington State Song. That did not fly in the long run, but it is still a mighty important song here. Do you doubt what I am saying? Doubters among you -- witness the sight below. Click on the photo and you will see the University of Washington band -- a leading university in the state that produces our top doctors and lawyers. What are they playing? You got it -- Louie Louie.

Now, if you are elsewhere and that glow of feeling superior has already begun, let me explain why that song is important in this state. How did Washingtonians become so infatuated with a tune about a Jamaican sailor? Where did we take the wrong bend in the road that led to this insanity? Sorry to tell you, but the story is long enough to fill a book (and it already has). Since I would like to keep some readers here, I will shorten the story. Hopefully this tour into Pacific Northwest music history will hold your interest.

1n 1961, a Tacoma band called the Fabulous Wailers recorded the tune. It featured a vocal by youthful Rockin' Robin Roberts. The Wailers played dances in Bellingham when I was in middle school. The song was not original to the Wailers, more on that in a minute, but they made changes in it that became essentials of the tune. For example, Robin put in the line: "Okay, let's give it to em' right now." Also, they changed the beat from the original track. This song by the Fabulous Wailers had a lot to do with all of the garage bands that emerged in the 1960's. Sadly, young Rockin' Robin died in a car accident. No video exists of this tune, but you can hear it by clicking on Robin's photo below.

Robin Roberts

The version of the song that, ultimately, ended up being the gold standard was recorded in 1963 by a group out of Portland, Oregon  -- The Kingsmen. I played that version when I worked in radio. The song, mainly inarticulate, was recorded on a shoestring budget, less than $50.00 for the session, and it was completed in an hour. Click on the album cover to hear and see the Kingsmen on the popular TV show Shindig. 

Coincidentally, about the same time in 1963, another Portland group recorded the tune. This group was Paul Revere and the Raiders. They went on to have a number of big hits that far exceeded their Louie Louie efforts. Many music critics claim the Raiders did the superior version of Louie Louie, but Mitch Miller (you remember the sing-a-long guy) was an executive at Columbia Records, the label that had signed the Raiders, and he did not like rock n' roll and Mitch saw to it that the song tanked. If you want to see their take on the tune, click on the 45 single.

We are kind of going in reverse here, but to get to the origins of the song we have to leave the Pacific Northwest. Louie Louie was written by Richard Berry, a blues singer out of LA. He released his version in the late 1950's. The northwest bands became familiar with it when Berry played our region. When Richard Berry first recorded the song, the words were benign and totally understandable. On the other hand, the smash hit by the Kingsmen had J. Edgar Hoover worked into a frenzy. At Attorney General Robert Kennedy's request, the song was investigated by the FBI to see if the lyrics were smutty. After much study, the feds figured out what the rest of us knew after listening to the song once -- the Kingsmen butchered the words and a person can hardly understand anything they say. 

If you want to see the late Richard Berry perform his legendary song, click on his photo below. This version has been souped-up from the original. By the time of this performance, late 1980's, Berry had updated his early version and it had elements that more accurately reflected the sound of the hit version. Just the same, you can understand the words.

 

You might wonder why Louie Louie is such a smash in Washington when the big hit was by an Oregon rock group. Fact is, I think that the early version by Rockin' Robin and the Fabulous Wailers, and the changes they made to the tune that stuck with it over the years, gave the song its Washington roots. There you go, the abbreviated story of Washington State's love affair with Louie Louie!

For more "Stories Behind the Music" click on the guitar

Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspections

 

Posted by

Steven L. Smith

If you enjoy nostalgia and music of yesteryear, click on Elvis' gold record to visit This Day In History. To explore The Stories Behind The Music blog posts click on the electric guitar. 

 

        

 

 

 

 

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Rainmaker
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Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

I am posting the following link so my friend Charles Buell can better follow the details of this post.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louie_Louie

 

Jun 27, 2008 02:56 AM #1
Ambassador
1,330,198
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Steve, now I COMPETELY understand why the rest of the world thinks this little corner of the country is looie!

Jun 27, 2008 02:58 AM #2
Rainmaker
1,243,537
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Charlie B,

Since you are a transplant to this area, all I can say is I am really proud of you for adapting so well. I also appreciate the fact that you supplied me with copies of the album covers by the Kingsmen, the Raiders and Richard Berry. Had I not seen those in your collecvtion, I would not have even thought of writing this blog on Louie Louie fever.

Jun 27, 2008 03:06 AM #3
Ambassador
1,330,198
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Steve, you know I am always glad to be of help:)

Jun 27, 2008 03:33 AM #4
Rainmaker
1,023,537
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR

This blog was interesting and will never be featured because you worked too hard on it.  I now need to know what the lyrics are because I couldn't understand a word that any of the performers said.  Didn't see them on wikipedia either.  By the way, Charles uses (as you said yourself) wikpedia instead.

Jun 27, 2008 04:01 AM #5
Rainer
407,371
Sean Allen
International Financing Solutions - Fort Myers, FL
International Financing Solutions

Have you ever heard the Tennessee state song? It is 'Rocky Top"... now, here is a strange song, but I will admit.... I love to listen to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlHjVr1au9M

Sean Allen

Jun 27, 2008 06:13 AM #6
Rainmaker
1,243,537
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Barbara,

Being a naturalized Washingtonian, Charlie B carries the lyrics in his wallet. So you can thank him for this quick production of the lyrics you so wanted to see.

These are the "official" words, written by Richard Berry. As a kid I had a copy of the "porno" lyrics. That is, what all the kids thought was being said. Those could not be posted here. It was pretty rank.


CHORUS:

Louie Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go

Fine little girl waits for me
Catch a ship across the sea
Sail that ship about, all alone
Never know if I make it home

CHORUS

Three nights and days I sail the sea
Think of girl, constantly
On that ship, I dream she's there
I smell the rose in her hair.

CHORUS

Okay, let's give it to 'em, right now!

GUITAR SOLO

See Jamaica, the moon above
It won't be long, me see me love
Take her in my arms again
Tell her I'll never leave again

CHORUS

Let's take it on outa here now
Let's go!!

 

Jun 27, 2008 08:46 AM #7
Rainmaker
1,243,537
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Sean,

Do I know Rocky Top? Of course, it was a popular song when I worked in country radio. We played it all the time by various artists.

Jun 27, 2008 08:50 AM #8
Rainmaker
1,023,537
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR

Steve, I am now totally inspired!  I want to hear that song agin and agin......wonderful lyrics.

Jun 27, 2008 09:04 AM #9
Rainmaker
1,243,537
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Barbara,

I totally agree. This is more proof that great poetry will stand the test of time and years.

Charlie B Loves This Song

Jun 27, 2008 09:33 AM #10
Rainer
67,462
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp

Steve, your brief history of time (uh Louie) brought back an old memory of mine.  In the early sixties, the fledgling P.R. and the Raiders played an extended gig in Honolulu.  I happened to be there in the military at the time.  Being the partier that I was back then, I got to know the guys a bit, and believe me, they were some awesome partiers.  Their later success notwithstanding, those guys could drink. , ,and they were fun to hang out with!

Jun 28, 2008 04:58 AM #11
Rainmaker
120,843
Elaine Manes Gage
Home Staging Online Services - Denver, CO
Staging done ONLINE!

Steve- I must admit this song has some meaning to me. My parents spent hundreds of dollars on guitar lessons for me when I was a teenager, and this was the only song I could ever play. OK, I lied. I could only play the chorus. I think I figured out it came to $100 a note.

Jun 28, 2008 08:23 AM #12
Rainmaker
1,243,537
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

David,

Cool story. I believe, as far as 45 singles, the raiders actually had more number ones than the Beatles on US charts. I am not positive, but I think I read that. As we get older I find those "Kicks are just getting harder to find."

Jun 28, 2008 09:04 AM #13
Rainmaker
1,243,537
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Elaine,'

 

You are one up on me. All I can play is a CD player.

Jun 28, 2008 09:06 AM #14
Rainmaker
452,172
Michael Eisenberg
eXp Realty - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham Real Estate Guy

Steve, thanks for a great history lesson and a bit of devirtion for the day.   you rock! and roll

Jun 30, 2008 05:21 AM #15
Rainmaker
1,243,537
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Michael,

Glad you found it interesting. Every once in awhile things that had to do with my past meld together to provide some blog fodder.

 

Steve

Jun 30, 2008 08:31 AM #16
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