Five Surprising But True Facts About The Song “Louie Louie”

April 11th marks International “Louie Louie” Day, celebrating the classic rock song on the birthday anniversary of its original writer/singer, Richard Berry.

The beloved song has long been associated with wild nights of drinking and toga parties thanks to its prominent feature in Animal House, but “Louie Louie” is much more than a party song. To celebrate “Louie Louie” Day, we’re taking a look at the history of the song you might not know about!

1. The original version of the song was penned by singer Richard Berry in 1955, who got his inspiration to write the song lyrics while performing at a gig in Olympia, Washington. Inspired after performing the song “El Loco Cha Cha” with Ricky Rillera and the Rhythm Rockers, Berry went straight to the men’s room to write the lyrics of “Louie Louie” down on toilet paper. True story.

2. While a minor hit for Berry, the most famous version of “Louie Louie” was recorded by The Kingsmen on April 6, 1963 for $50 at a studio on Portland, Oregon. The group recorded the song in one take and featured a chaotic garage band sound along with Jack Ely’s garbled singing of the lyrics.

The unintelligible lyrics later got The Kingsmen wrapped up in controversy when rumors spread that Ely intentionally slurred the words because it contained obscene lyrics. The song was then banned from numerous radio stations across the country and was even investigated by the FBI, which later concluded they weren’t able to understand the wording on the record.

3. Over the years, the song’s title has been misspelled with a comma between the names, but in an 1988 interview with Esquire, Berry confirmed that the correct spelling of “Louie Louie” didn’t include a comma.

4. In 1985, comedian/motivational speaker Ross Shaffer led a movement to have “Louie Louie” become Washington’s official state song, replacing “Washington, My Home” by Helen Davis. Although the movement didn’t pass state legislature, the state did declare April 12th as “Louie Louie Day” and featured a rally at the Capitol building with performances by the Kingsmen, Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Wailers.

5. The song got its reputation for being one of the greatest party songs of all time after being featured in the 1978 film Animal House starring John Belushi, despite the fact the song wasn’t recorded until two years after the movie’s time period set in 1962.

The song has enjoyed a long legacy and has gone on to become the most covered rock song in music history with over 1,500 versions, surpassing even The Beatles “Yesterday,” according to The Kingsmen’s version was also named #54 on Rolling Stones‘ 500 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time.

Celebrate “Louie Louie” Day yourself by watching and singing along with The Kingsmen (with a handy dandy lyric sheet to help you follow along):

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.

A fine little girl, she waits for me.
Me catch the ship across the sea.
Me sailed the ship all alone.
Me never think I’ll make it home.

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.

Three nights and days I sailed the sea.
Me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there.
I smell the rose in her hair.

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go.
OK, let’s give it to ’em right now

(guitar solo)

Me see . . .

Me see Jamaica, the moon above.
It won’t be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I’ll never leave again.

Louie Louie, oh no, me gotta go, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby.
Louie Louie, oh baby, me gotta go
I said we gotta go now
Let’s step on out of here
Let’s go!

More from Britt Bickel

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