Worldwide, scores of millions of people recognize the opening strains of ‘Louie Louie’ the instant they hear them. Whether listening to The Kingsmen blasting away on the radio or CD or tape or watching actors performing in countless movies like Animal House or Mr. Holland’s Opus or Dave, people of all ages and backgrounds break into smiles the moment that primal riff first tickles their ears. On a multitude of levels, ‘Louie Louie’ has embedded itself deep within our collective consciousness and become a permanent element of our cultural identity. Yet few know the true story behind this legendary recording and its aftermath.”
Since The Kingsmen’s release of “Louie Louie” in 1963, a controversy over the questionable lyrics remains unresolved. Untold millions of copies have been sold and well over 1,000 cover versions have been recorded, giving the recording iconic status while crowning the band the “fathers of garage rock” and bestowing The Kingsmen with the title of “America’s Party Band”.
Forty years ago, as a member of The Kingsmen, I lived through, or perhaps I should say “survived”, the original pandemonium that surrounded the song. Back then, following an extensive FBI investigation personally directed by J. Edgar Hoover, a federal judge found that our version of the song was “unintelligible at any speed.” His declaration gave the youth of America the nebulosity necessary for the growth of the rumors and accusations that helped create the legend of “Louie Louie”.
Herein the humorous, sometimes unbelievable, details of what really happened to The Kingsmen and “Louie Louie” are revealed for the first time. The never-ending controversy that lies at the heart of this tale is more than just once-upon-a-time history; the legend, the mystery, the wonder of “Louie Louie” live on today.