Between Richard Berry and Rockin’ Robin Roberts

Dave Lewis 1961

In documenting the story of LOUIE LOUIE, I’ve met a lot of people that have shared their insight about how this song made it’s way into the Pacific Northwest, where it was embraced as a regional anthem.

In the Dave Marsh book on LOUIE LOUIE, Ron Holden & the Playboys were given credit for introducing Richard Berry’s song to the Pacific Northwest. Despite my efforts to interview him, I never had a chance to talk with Ron Holden. By some strange fluke, both he and Richard Berry died in January 1997, only one day apart. Even though Ron Holden was fairly successful with his Top 10 hit of 1960 “Love You So,” and he had an interesting career in the the entertainment industry, appearing on various television shows (so I’ve been told), I haven’t had much luck finding any footage of him, much less any recordings of his version of LOUIE LOUIE. If he did actually record the song, I’ve yet to find it. His live performances of the song were supposedly quite powerful, inspiring many others to pick up on this song.

If anybody out there in cyberspace has any video, audio or photographic footage of Ron Holden, please drop me an email. Certainly finding a recording of his version would be like uncovering a major missing link to this puzzle. At this point in time, I really have very little material on Ron Holden, so whatever I can find would be a major asset to the project.

As it turns out, I’ve heard that other Northwest musicians peformed this song before Ron Holden. I’ve had a handful of people tell me that Dave Lewis did the song long before anyone else. I once had an opportunity to talk to Dave Lewis on the phone, where he verified that he did indeed perform Richard Berry‘s LOUIE LOUIE in Seattle, long before Ron Holden or anyone else. In fact, Dave even told me that he blatantly swiped LOUIE LOUIE for his own composition “David’s Mood.” Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet Dave in person, much less interview him for my documentary. He died in 1998. Like Ron Holden, I’m desperately looking for any video, audio or photographic footage I can find of Dave Lewis, so if you have any, please drop me an email.

One of the other Northwest bands that apparently performed LOUIE LOUIE before anyone else picked up on it was The Frantics, who discovered the song years before Rockin Robin Roberts & the Wailers. In fact, when I interviewed Jim Manolides of the Frantics, he told me that he actually taught Rockin’ Robin Roberts the lyrics to LOUIE LOUIE at a Tacoma TV telethon. Needless to say, the particular TV marathon show in which both Rockin’ Robin Roberts and the Wailers performed on a live TV broadcast was never recorded. The Frantics later had some hit recordings, including “Fog Cutter” and “Werewolf,” but they never actually recorded LOUIE LOUIE.

Up until a few months ago, I believed there were only two recordings of LOUIE LOUIE recorded between Richard Berry‘s 1957 single, and 1963, when both The Kingsmen and Paul Revere & the Raiders released their versions. Those two recordings came out in 1961- Rockin Robin Roberts (& the Wailers) and Little Bill (Engelhart with the Adventurers and the Shalimars). There were NO other recordings of the song that existed. At least… so I thought. I’ve recently discovered a very rare Northwest recording by a band that’s NEVER been mentioned in any music history books. If this is genuine, I think I’ve got a rare 1959 live recording of the song!

Will the public be able to hear this rare recording? Will the MEANING OF LOUIE documentary ever be finished? YES! is the answer to both of these questions. Stay tuned, check in with this blog on a regular basis, and sign up for the LOUIE REPORT email newsletter. Good things come for those that wait….

In the meantime, here’s a rare photo of the Dave Lewis Trio, circa 1961. Jim Manolides left the Frantics, and joined the Davis Lewis Trio, marking a moment in time when two LOUIE pioneers were in a band together, two years before the Kingsmen recorded their iconic version of the song.

3 comments to Between Richard Berry and Rockin’ Robin Roberts

  • Darlene Barrett

    I used to see Rockin Robin Roberts perform at the Lynnwood Skating Rink around 1958. I still have a 45 record of Louie Louie by Rockin Robin Roberts.

  • Ron Petersen Frantics

    Hi I am original member of the Frantics. Andy Duvall and the Playboys were the first group I remember who played it with a NW Beat Ron Petersen

  • Gary Ronning Seattle

    Thought I would try to look you up, has been many years. hope you are doing well. Gary

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