DEAR JERRY: “Louie Louie” has been recorded by everyone and their brother, and is regularly played at sporting events. But how does it rank among the all-time most recorded songs?
Richard Berry did the original, but the Kingsmen are the ones most associated with the song. Did their hit come before or after the one by Paul Revere and the Raiders? Both were popular here in Portland.
Which do you think is the strangest version? For me, it's probably the Troggs, and the way they borrow heavily from their hit, “With a Girl Like You.”
Royce Weber, McMinnville, Ore.
DEAR ROYCE: For non-seasonal recordings, the majority of the lists ranking most-recorded songs have Richard Berry's “Louie Louie” second only to Paul McCartney's “Yesterday.” Over 1,000 recordings exist of “Louie Louie,” with at least 1,600 versions made of “Yesterday.”
My insertion of the non-seasonal caveat allows for how ever many thousands of recordings exist of Irving Berlin's “White Christmas.” Recent estimations place the number of different recordings of this holiday classic at around 10,000! (Please don't ask me to list them.)
The Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders both recorded “Louie Louie” during the same week, April 1963, at the same Portland studio, Bob Lindahl's Northwest Recorders. The Kingsmen are from Portland, the Raiders hail from Boise, Idaho.
Some evidence points to the Raiders' “Louie Louie” session being April 11, 1963, with the Kingsmen coming in two days later to lay down their version.
This conjecture, however, is disputed by some who say the Kingsmen first made a demo of the song, which the Raiders heard, liked, and quickly waxed.
Regardless, neither of these groups were first in the northwest to revive Richard Berry's tune.
That honor goes to Tacoma's Bill Engelhart, who, as Little Bill and the Bluenotes, released it in 1961 (Topaz 1305).
Then along came Rockin' Robin Roberts with his single (Etiquette 1) in 1962. This brought Roberts to the attention of the Wailers, one of the top northwest acts at the time, and soon Robin began wailin' as a Wailer.
Before November 9, 1963, the week the Raiders and Kingsmen both debuted in the Top 100, no recording of “Louie Louie” ever appeared on any of the Billboard or Cash Box charts.
Nationally, the Kingsmen clearly dominated; however, as you recall, Portland did not ignore the Raiders. Both versions were hits in the Rose City, as well as Boise, of course.
Regarding whose is the strangest “Louie Louie,” I vote for Julie London. Originally one of the cuts on her 1969 LP, “Yummy Yummy Yummy” (Liberty LST-7609), Julie's sultry cabaret vocal with a jazzy, piccolo-led ensemble make this track seem like it came from a distant galaxy.
Then again, it is somewhat at home in a mix that also includes London taking on Manfred Mann (“Quinn the Eskimo”); Fifth Dimension (“Stoned Soul Picnic”); Jose Feliciano (“Light My Fire”); and perhaps most unexpected of all, the title track, “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” a bubble gum hit for the Ohio Express.
Being strange is not necessarily being bad. In fact, I rather enjoy Julie London's passionate handling of this Louie fellow.
IZ ZAT SO? There is one quirky sidebar to the “Louie Louie” story. When the Kingsmen record reached No. 2 (December 14, 1963), the Singing Nun was enjoying her second consecutive week at No. 1 with “Dominique.” It's hard to imagine the nation's top two tunes more widely divergent.
Stalled at No. 2 for two weeks under the French language “Dominique,” the Kingsmen then got bumped down to No. 3 the following week (December 28, 1963), giving ground to Bobby Vinton's “There I've Said It Again,” while “Dominique” remained on top.
Came the new year and “Louie Louie” surged again to No. 2, but would remain locked right there for the entire month of January. For those four weeks, the bridesmaid Kingsmen were topped by Vinton's “There I've Said It Again.”
On February 1st, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” zoomed to No. 1 a position the Beatles would occupy for 20 of the next 48 weeks.