The marching band story

When it came to email, Thursday was a day that I was absolutely drenched with attention in the aftermath of the Michigan high school marching band story. In case you missed this news item, here’s what happened:

A pop culture controversy that has simmered for decades came to a head when a middle school marching band was told not to perform “Louie Louie.”

Benton Harbor Superintendent Paula Dawning cited the song’s allegedly raunchy lyrics in ordering the McCord Middle School band not to perform it in Saturday’s Grand Floral Parade, held as part of the Blossomtime Festival.

In a letter sent home with McCord students, Dawning said “Louie Louie” was not appropriate for Benton Harbor students to play while representing the district even though the marching band wasn’t going to sing it.

This is the only time I’ve ever heard of anyone ever objecting to the lyrics of an instrumental rendition of this song. Quite bizarre.

On Thursday, MSNBC contacted me to appear on the ‘Connected Coast to Coast’ TV show hosted by Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley to discuss this controversial song. While it might been interesting to appear on this show, via satellite at my local news station, I thought that Jack Ely should be their number one choice for this roundtable discussion. After all, who better to discuss this controversy than the original singer of the iconic rendition that inspired countless garage bands? Jack left the Kingsmen before it ever became famous, so he missed out on a lot of the attention when this thing climbed the charts. I got the MSNBC people in touch with Jack, who’s living out in Oregon, and he did a phone interview. MSNBC didn’t need two LOUIE LOUIE experts on their show, and I wasn’t all that anxious to race over to a television station after spending three very long days at the INPUT 2005 documentary conference in San Francisco. Did we really need to see the director of the still-unfinished documentary on the TV screen?

Besides…. all my favorite shirts were in the laundry basket…..

You can read all the various reports of this LOUIE LOUIE story if you Google “Louie Louie” under a news search. The most popular link I received was the AP story from the Yahoo site:

There’s a lot of LOUIE info to swim through, and I’d like to thank all of my friends out in cyberspace for their input, with a special nod to Andy Martello in Chicago, who’s got his own LOUIE website as part of his
Tales from AndyLand blog.

If you’d like to read what Jack Ely has been up to since he leff the Kingsmen, you should read a recent interview at the website.

3 comments to The marching band story

  • Thanks for the nice plug.

    I still would have liked to see you up there as any good press for the film, finished or not, would be helpful. However, Jack Ely is really THE person to talk to about a school banning Louie Louie I would think.

  • Administrator

    Andy- you’re the best! I appreciate the good feedback, but I’m happy to avoid the spotlight until I finish this film. Once I wrap this project, then you won’t be able to shut me up!

  • Rusty Humphrey

    The controversy that wouldn’t die! Wow! I played in the backup band for Jack Ely (and some others) for the “30th Anniversary Louie Louie” tour back in 1993. I remember hearing Jack tell the story of why the lyrics were unintelligible – that the guys in the band thought they were just doing a rehearsal, not the actual take, and they were all sort of sluffing off saving their energy for the “real” take. That and the fact that it was recorded with a single mic, hanging by the ceiling, and Jack was half-singing, half-shouting up at it.

    When I would tell my friends about it, they’d say, “So what are they lyrics, really?” And I’d recite them, and they’d so, “No, No, I mean the dirty ones!” I simply could not convince a fair number of people that the whole dirty lyrics thing was nothing more than people’s dirty subconscious minds filling in the blanks of what they couldn’t clearly hear.

    I guess I should stop being surprised about news events like the Michigan marching band. People are sometimes lemmings, incapable (or unwilling) of thinking for themselves, or doing their own research, but blindly believing what someone else tells them.


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