It was on August 19, 1983, that my life was forever changed by a LOUIE LOUIE marathon at KFJC radio.
At the time, I was attending college at both Foothill College and De Anza College, learning about film, television and radio. KFJC radio, based at Foothill College, was a major magnet for all the exciting new music in the San Francisco-San Jose region. I voluntered to work at this station, doing some work in the promotions department, photographing various events, and writing for the program guide.
One night at KFJC, one of the disc jockeys, a guy by the name of Strech Riedle, decided to play an hour’s worth of LOUIE LOUIE. Across the bay in Berkeley, an “Amazing Mystery DJ” at radio station KALX heard about this little show, and was inspired to play TWO HOURS of LOUIE LOUIE.
After hearing about this little show, Stretch came back with a 4-hour show featuring nothing but LOUIE LOUIE. In response, the folks at KALX assembled a 24 hour LOUIE LOUIE marathon, which received plenty of local coverage.
Recognizing the monster that he unleashed, Stretch Riedle teamed up with fellow disc jockey Phil Dirt and station advisor Doc Pelzel to coordinate the largest LOUIE LOUIE marathon ever undertaken in the history of mankind. For many months in advance, the staff of KFJC searched high and low for every known version of the song, encouraging musicians to record new versions of the song, and promoted this event like the massive media event it would become. With some detective work , Richard Berry, the man who wrote this song, was found living in Los Angeles, struggling to stay afloat, receiving welfare payments just to survive. With a set of pre-paid train tickets and a hotel room, Richard Berry and his daughter Kristy were invited as honored guests for this very special event.
While discussing plans with representatives of Rhino Records, a plan was hatched to release a “Best of LOUIE LOUIE” LP that would be released in conjunction with this marathon. Doc Pelzel would write the liner notes, and Rhino would assemble a nice collection that featured new and old versions of the song. The pieces were coming together quite nicely.
This event certainly exceeded the expectations of anyone that worked on it. The Wall Street Journal gave the story front page coverage, the Entertainment Tonight television show provided significant mention, every local newspaper provided significant articles, and all the regional TV news programs featured this story as a prominent news item.
On Friday night, August 19, 1983, at 6:00 pm, you could hear something that sounded like this.
Stretch Riedle, Phil Dirt, and Richard Berry did some introductions, and KFJC began it’s 63 hour broadcast of the world’s longest LOUIE LOUIE marathon. Within the next 24 hours, Jack Ely, original vocalist for the Kingsmen, would be flying down from Portland, Oregon, marking the first time Richard Berry would ever meet a member of the band that transformed his song into a massive garage rock anthem.
At the time, I was also doing some work with a cable access station, so I decided to borrow some video gear to document this event. I wound up becoming the only person to shoot footage of the first and only musical performance of Richard Berry and Jack Ely, accompanied by the Lady Bo Band. As I listened to all the things that happened to Richard and Jack, I realized I had the potential to create a great documentary about the obscure history of an enormously popular song.
So here I am, all these years, still working on this very ambitious documentary. The journey has been very interesting, and I’ve met some wonderful people in this big quest. It’s certainly taken longer than expected, but I have no complaints. It’s been a wild ride.
Today, to commemorate this great moment in musical history, and raise more money to cover the various debts I’ve acquired in the production of this project, I’m putting up some rare LOUIE LOUIE items up for sale on my eBay auction. Now, supporters of this project can bid on a LOUIE LOUIE wine cooler cardboard flat autographed by Richard Berry, an 8 x 10 glossy autographed by Jack Ely, and an empty LOUIE LOUIE wine cooler bottle. You can view what I’m selling by going to the E.P. Garage Sale eBay Auction Site. I’d like to encourage all generous collectors to bid high, and bid often.
In the meantime, I would recommend a massive celebration around the world this weekend to commemorate the anniversary of the KFJC LOUIE LOUIE marathon.