April Musings and LOUIE LOUIE Day

April 1st is a very interesting day. Around the world, many of us celebrate this day as April’s Fools Day, which is an excuse to play really goofy tricks on one another. For my co-producer Jesse Block, it happens to be the birthday for his beloved wife Ingrid. A lot of other folks have celebrated their birthday on that particular day- Jimmy Cliff, Gil Scott-Heron, Lon Chaney Sr, Ronnie Lane, Ali MacGraw, Annette O’Toole, and Debbie Reynolds, to name a few. If you view the Wikipedia entry for April 1st, you’ll see a lot of really interesting history connected to that day.

I had some fun installing the temporary change to LouieLouie.net for April First. What surprised me was the number of the people that actually thought I would actually do such a drastic change. I guess I did a better job than I thought I did. Needless to say, that will never happen again….

In the LOUIE Universe, a couple of really great things happened in the month of April, and on April 1st in particular.

On April 1, 1989, Richard Berry, author of LOUIE LOUIE, took part in the second LOUIE LOUIE parade of San Francisco, sponsored by the Leukemia Foundation and KFOG Radio. A local surf band by the name of Da Monz backed Richard for a dynamic performance that merged rhythm and blues with surf guitar instrumentals. Later that night Richard played at Slim’s, a local nightclub.

As luck would have it, I was fortunate to shoot some video at both events. Both of these moments shall be showcased in the upcoming documentary.

Richard Berry and Da Monz

On April 1, 1994, BBC Television broadcast a program entitled “Words & Music” featuring Richard Berry. This was a particularly poignant moment for Richard, as it was one of the many great highlights of his first and only trip to England that took place in October 1993. As Richard didn’t fly, he traveled in an ocean liner from New York to London, which took quite a few days.

Arriving in England after a somewhat bumpy cruise, Richard had a very enjoyable stay in London. He stayed at an expensive hotel near Hyde Park, spending more money than he actually made, but enjoying all the attention he received as the original songwriter of an international music icon. Road manager Jim Dawson described one particular moment of that trip:

My biggest memory was going to the big HMV Record Store on Oxford and taking the escalator downstairs to the oldies/blues department. At the bottom of the steps was a large display of maybe two dozen copies of that month’s Now Dig This, with Richard’s smoking pipe photo on the cove–that’s all you saw as you took the stairs down.

While Richard prepared for his performances at the BBC TV show, the Mary Costello radio program on Great London Radio, a Weekender show at Hemsby, and a club gig at the 100 Club on Oxford Street, he was stunned how many musicians were aware of his old recordings. In fact, Richard had to re-acquaint himself with many of his old tracks just so he perform them again. He also told me with great pride how fellow musicians Elton John and George Michael both made a special point of meeting him.

There were some other noteworthy April events within the legend of LOUIE LOUIE.

April 11, 1935 was the date Richard Berry was born.

According to Billboard listings documented in the excellent First Pressings books by Galen Gart, the very first version of LOUIE LOUIE- the original Flip Records single (Flip 321 “You Are My Sunshine” / “Louie Louie”) was officially released during the week of April 13, 1957.

For many years, I was under the impression that April 12th, 1963 was the day that the Kingsmen recorded LOUIE LOUIE in 1963, but according to the new LOUIE LOUIE book by Dick Peterson, the recording actually took place on Saturday, April 6, 1963.

So that means that TODAY, April 6th is the 43rd anniversary of the recording of the world’s most popular version of the song LOUIE LOUIE.

On April 12, 1985, the Washington State Senate, declared that day as an official “Louie Louie Day” celebrating with a rally and performance at the State Capitol in Olympia, Washington. Two days later, the mayor of Seattle proclaimed April 14, 1985 as “Louie Louie Day” with a special event at Seattle Center. Both events were orchestrated in conjunction with the ill-fated attempt to transform LOUIE LOUIE into the official state song of the state of Washington.

Then, on April 11, 1998 there was a major victory for the Kingsmen, and all musicians that ever got screwed over by a record label.

It was on that day that an announcement was made that the Kingsmen had won their big case against Gusto Records/GML in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. After many years were spent fighting in court, the Kingsmen who never received a penny in royalties from Gusto Records/GML, owners of the Wand/Scepter record catalog, the Kingsmen finally won the rights to own their original masters. Ignoring a 1968 contract that guaranteed a 9% royalty to the Kingsmen, Gusto/GML was finally forced to relinquish $200,000 in royalties, and all of the original 105 master recordings by the band, including the original Kingsmen recording of LOUIE LOUIE.

So yes, there were a lot of great things in the Legend of LOUIE that occurred during the month of April. My friend Mike Hintze has a webpage that makes a strong case for declaring April 11 as The International Louie Louie Day.

I think it’s a great idea. Eight years ago, some folks in Berkeley, California organized flash mobs for LOUIE LOUIE, before the term “flash mob” was even invented. Folks could gather at a given time and just play LOUIE LOUIE for the hell of it, using kazoos, guitars, tubas, drums or any other musical instrument that was available.

I believe it’s an idea whose time has come.

Tuesday, April 11 is LOUIE LOUIE Day. Mark your calendar.

Go have some fun…

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