by Ian Roesler
The world’s greatest holiday is happening on April 11. It’s not Christmas. It’s not Thanksgiving. It’s International Louie Louie Day! A day celebrating one of the most influential and covered songs in history and of special note, “Louie, Louie” has an odd connection with Indiana. However, we’ve got some history to start with first.
In the beginning
The most famous version is the one sung by the Kingsmen; however, they didn’t write it. The man who wrote it was none other than Richard Berry, brother of Chuck Berry. Richard Berry was born April 11, 1935, in Extension, Louisiana. He released “Louie, Louie” in April 1957. It wouldn’t be until six years later, also in April, that the Kingsmen would record the famous version we all know today.
The Kingsmen was a garage rock band from Portland, Oregon. They formed in the 1960s. Their version of the song was recorded in one take. They thought that they would have another opportunity to record but it was released as it was.
The song is known for its garbled and at times hard to understand lyrics. This is the result of the lead singer, Jack Ely, wearing braces and the microphone hanging from the ceiling. Also, after the guitar solo, Ely sings a word too early and then stops to wait for the correct time. As a result, drummer Lynn Easton performs a fill before the song gets back on track. Also, at 55 seconds Easton drops a drumstick and if you listen closely he can be heard yelling “f—.”
FBI investigation and Indiana ban
Due to the hard to understand lyrics of the Kingsmen, people became suspicious. This prompted the FBI to launch an investigation into the true lyrics. Nevermind the fact that they could have asked Richard Berry or Jack Ely. This lasted for a few months in 1964.
Matthew Welsh was the Governor of Indiana during the early 60s. He received a letter from two teens about the lyrics and decided to ban it. Following the outrage of possibly obscene lyrics, then-Governor Welsh of Indiana banned “Louie, Louie” from the airwaves. However, not all incidents involving “Louie, Louie” ran afoul of the law.
There have been many miscellaneous incidents in the history of “Louie, Louie.” To start with, there were a couple of “Louie, Louie” marathons. The first one was held by Berkeley-based radio station, KALX. They played different versions for 24 hours. In response to this as a form of friendly rivalry, the radio station KFJC based in Los Altos, had an event called Maximum Louie Louie, where they played over 800 versions for a total of 63 hours. Just imagine listening to the world’s greatest song for 63 hours. Blissful, just blissful.
The first “Louie Louie Day” was held April 12, 1985, in Washington state. A year later, Oregon followed suit. The one in Washington was held as a response to a campaign to jokingly change it to the state song. Sadly, the campaign didn’t work out. It did, however, bring to fruition my favorite holiday.
Featured Image: McKenna Kolb
Ian is a Zoology major also minoring in German. He is fan of horror movies and punk rock. He has also seen an unhealthy number of bad movies.