Wyatt and Jonah wait outside the garage for rehearsal. What is a “band garage” without its “garage band”?
Mr. Berry was born in Extension, La.,April 11, 1935, near New Orleans, in 1935. He was sent to Los Angeles a year later to live with an aunt; his parents followed. ”Louie Louie,” written and recorded in 1956, is a cornerstone of rock. It has a simple but indelible beat, three basic chords and a melody that encourages even the tone-deaf to sing along. Its lyrics are the lament of a Jamaican sailor telling a bartender named Louie how much he misses his girlfriend.
Once Wyatt and Jonah got in to the garage the band is back together. it time to practice the song Louie Louie.
Flip Records first released Mr. Berry’s ”Louie Louie” as the B-side of his version of ”You Are My Sunshine.” But ”Louie Louie” became the hit; for one week, the Los Angeles disk jockey Hunter Hancock played the song every hour on the hour on KGFJ. It sold tens of thousands of copies on the West Coast, but Mr. Berry’s attempts at a follow-up hit were unsuccessful. In 1959, he needed money to get married, and he sold the publishing rights to ”Louie Louie” to Max Feirtag, the owner of Flip, for $750. He did, however, retain the rights to royalties for radio play.
Meanwhile, ”Louie Louie” had made its way to the Pacific Northwest, where it became a staple of local bands. A version by a Seattle band, Rockin’ Robin Roberts with the Wailers, released in 1961, turned the song into a bar-band rocker. And in 1963, two bands from Portland, Ore., the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders, both recorded ”Louie Louie” in the same week. The Kingsmen’s version — sloppy and energetic with slurred vocals — became the much bigger hit after Arnie (Woo-Woo) Ginsberg, a Boston disk jockey, played it twice while declaring it the worst record of the week; it went on to sell millions of copies. Rumors spread that the words were obscene, and the F.B.I. began a 30-month inquiry into the song. Mr. Berry was questioned twice, although the Kingsmen’s lead singer, Jack Ely, was never called. Eventually, the investigation was closed without prosecution.