Today, we’re mourning the loss of Arnie Ginsburg, a legendary disc jockey from Boston that played a prominent role in the history of the song LOUIE LOUIE.
In 1963, Arnie was a very popular disk jockey on radio station WMEX in Boston, Massachusetts. In a time when most Top-40 DJs were given non-descript, non-ethnic radio names, Arnie used his real name, adding a “Woo Woo,” as he incorporated a lot of sound effects into his radio show, which he called “The Night Train.”
One of Arnie’s favorite gimmicks on his “Night Train” show was a special segment entitled “the World’s Worst Records.” Arnie would seek out strange and unusual musical recordings, which he would showcase during this special segment. Two years earlier, he introduced on this program – “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight?)” by British vocalist Lonnie Donegan, which was a big hit in England, but had been completely ignored in America. After heavy airplay on Arnie’s show, the song became very popular, spread to other stations, and became a nationwide hit, reaching the #5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1961.
During the Summer of 1963, Arnie found similar success when he discovered an odd sounding single from a teenage band based in Portland, Oregon. Whenever Arnie played this particular song on his show, his audio audience would respond enthusiastically, often demanding that it be played multiple times throughout the radio show.
That song was, of course, LOUIE LOUIE by the Kingsmen. Up until that point, nobody was paying attention to that record. Not even radio stations in Portland, Oregon were acknowledging their homegrown rockers. Arnie’s radio show changed all of that.
Arnie Ginsburg was one of the most successful disc jockeys in the United States during the 1960s. When he was hired to work at WMEX, he refused to take a salary, but instead made a deal to receive 25% from all advertising revenue from his radio show. He wound up becoming the highest-paid disc jockey at WMEX. He developed himself as a special brand in Boston and beyond – sharing musical insights in various trade publications, appearing in a feature length movie and creating his own special “Ginsburger” hamburger.
Over the course of his career in broadcasting, Arnie Ginsburg has not only been a beloved star disc jockey, but he’s also been a general manager, a station manager, an advertising executive and an owner of a television station.
I am very grateful Arnie provided a solid interview for the LOUIE documentary project.
To celebrate Arnie’s life, I’m sharing some previously-unreleased footage from the LOUIE interview sessions. It’s not LOUIE-specific, but it’s a question my friend Phil Milstein was curious about. Did this Boston disk jockey work with Jan and Dean, or was it another guy named “Arnie Ginsburg” that collaborated with an earlier version of that group? (short answer: Yes and Yes)
We’ll save the LOUIE interview for later….
If you’d like to hear what Arnie Ginsburg’s old radio shows sounded like back in the day, I’d recommended tracking down a copy of the “Cruisin 1961” LP or CD, which provides a replication of the type of radio shows he would create for WMEX Radio in 1961.
My thoughts are with the family and friends of Arnie Ginsburg.
Rest in peace, Arnie.
– E.P. of LouieLouie.net
Wikipedia – Arnie Ginsburg
Boston Globe – Arnie Ginsburg obituary
Cruisn’ 1961- liner notes
Discogs – Cruisin’ 1966 LP