Richard Berry wrote and composed the rhythm and blues song “Louie Louie” in 1955, and it was released in 1957. It is best known for the Kingsmen’s 1963 hit version, which has become a pop and rock standard. The song is based on the bandleader René Touzet’s tune “El Loco Cha Cha,” and it is an example of Afro-Cuban influence on American popular music.
In simple verse-chorus style, “Louie Louie” relates the first-person account of a Jamaican sailor returning to the island to meet his girlfriend.
The “remarkable historical impact” of “Louie Louie” on the history of rock and roll has been recognized by organizations and newspapers all around the world. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, National Public Radio, VH1, Rolling Stone Magazine, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Recording Industry Association of America are among those on a partial list (see Recognition and Rankings table below).
The annual Louie Louie Parade in Philadelphia from 1985 to 1989; the LouieFest in Tacoma from 2003 to 2012; the continued annual Louie Louie Street Party in Peoria; and the abortive bid in 1985 to make it the state song of Washington are all examples of the song’s legacy.
Remember when Indiana Teenagers Tipped Off the Fbi About Lewd ‘Louie Louie’ Lyrics?
Two small-town Indiana adolescents were outraged by the vulgar lyrics they heard on the radio in a new rock ‘n roll song, so they took action. They wrote the governor a letter.
After reading the letter, the governor decided to take action. He dispatched an aide to purchase the record. He sat down and listened to it numerous times at various rates. He notified the Federal Communications Commission after becoming convinced that the record was really tainted.
He called the Indiana Broadcasters Association and asked that the song be taken off of rotation on member radio stations.
“Naughty record, air ban requested” The governor’s quick response to a letter of complaint from “a Frankfort resident” was detailed in the headline of a Jan. 23, 1964, Indianapolis News story. We now know that the letter was sent by two Frankfort residents who were buddies. They were both high school students. The FCC, the US Postal Service, the US Justice Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation would all be looking into the recording within days.
This sounds like a positive after-school television program (empowered youth!) yet it was the start of one of the most ridiculous cultural wars in American history. There would be no convictions or even arrests as a result of this remarkable blunder. The month was January 1964. The Kingsmen from Portland, Oregon, provided the music. It was a cover of “Louie Louie,” a song about a sailor who pines for a girl. Matthew E. Welsh, D — Indiana, was the governor.
And What About the Two Frankfort Adolescent Pioneers?
Until today, they’ve never been identified, let alone questioned. Through Gov. Welsh’s archival communications, we discovered the Frankfort kids – Ground Zero of a national debate. When governors leave office, they save their letters and send them over to the Indiana State Archives.
The archives are accessible to the general public. Academics occasionally use old governors’ letters to untangle complicated historical issues. But what is unraveled here is a ridiculous misconception that led to parental panic and nanny-state overreach at a time when many adults were concerned about youth culture’s growing rebelliousness.
The Frankfort adolescent generation is now in their seventies. One is masculine and the other is female. They’ve never spoken about “Louie Louie” in public. They were never questioned about it.
We dialed their number. They didn’t say much and spoke in short bursts. Who wouldn’t be ashamed if they appeared embarrassed? What an obnoxious act they committed. They were, however, children. They have matured.
They demanded and received anonymity. Why smear two persons who, in good sincerity, strove to salvage the country from moral decay 55 years ago?
Both Frankfort teenagers wrote follow-up letters to Gov. Welsh days after he leaped into action, congratulating him for acting so quickly on the “Louie Louie” case. (They were saved by the governor and are now in the archives.)
“You deserve a standing ovation for your courageous stand against this record,” wrote the senior guy. After that, the lad defended youth: “Much has been written about American teenagers’ deteriorating values. Most people don’t realize that if morals are slipping, which I doubt they are, it’s because of’smut’ like this record, which is produced by adults who are solely interested in making quick money.”