RIP: Lan Roberts, Seattle DJ w/ Little Green Thing with a Duck

Lan Roberts, one of Seattle’s best-known disc jockeys in the heyday of the city’s powerhouse AM rock stations, passed away recently at his home in Texas of complications from lung cancer. He was 69.

Lan Roberts was a big ally of LOUIE LOUIE and the Kingsmen. Over the years, he’s been in contact with the LOUIE REPORT, but I never had a chance to interview him in person, which is unfortunate. He had his own blog, where he shared silly jokes, and did his part to persuade folks to avoid cigarettes. As my own father died of emphysema, it was a fight I could certainly relate to.

Looking at one of the links listed his blog, I found the Seattle Pop History webpage, which features a great little story about Lan Roberts and a “Little Green Thing With a Picture of a Duck on It”:

A legendary radio promo perpetrated by Lan Roberts when he was at KJR back in 1964. It started out as a joke, with Roberts telling his listeners that anyone sending him a letter would get a “Lil green thing with a picture of a duck on it” in return. In the next two days he got 3000 letters requesting the thing. Without a single “lil green thing” on hand, Roberts had to scramble, buying a block of green cloth, cutting it into little squares, and then stamping it with a picture of a duck (with “Lil Green Thing” also stamped on it) to fulfill his promise to his listeners. Dave Lewis (with Joe Johansen) later recorded an instrumental, the title of which, “Little Green Thing,” was very likely inspired by Lan Roberts’ promo. Shortly after pressing the song, Dave Lewis appeared on Lan Roberts’ radio show with “Little Green Thing” in hand and it was played on the air for the very first time, and later went on to become a NW hit. Roberts, of course, when “Little Green Thing” was played on the air for the first time, gave Lewis a Lil Green Thing With a Picture of a Duck on It. The instrumental, itself, went on to become a Northwest rock standard played by just about any NW group featuring a Hammond organ (which was just about all of them).

When you go to Lan Roberts’ web site, you can see a picture of an actual “Lil Green Thing With a Picture of a Duck on It.”

Those that have studied the history of LOUIE LOUIE understand that “Little Green Thing” by Dave Lewis plays a significant role. Dave Lewis was one of the first musicians to perform LOUIE LOUIE in the Pacific Northwest, along with Ron Holden & the Playboys, and the Frantics, followed by Little Bill Engelhart, Rockin’ Roberts & the Wailers. While Dave Lewis performed THE SONG regularly, he didn’t actually record LOUIE LOUIE. Instead, he did some minor alterations, and labelled his reinvented composition “Little Green Thing,” which was released nationwide on the A&M label.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an excellent obituary and Jon Pearkins continues to maintain the LanRoberts.com website.

My thanks to Hairy Blair for sharing this information. Lan will be missed.

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