Playboy, LOUIE LOUIE and the Pursuit of Happiness (RIP: Hugh Hefner)

Last month, we lost Hugh Hefner, the creator of Playboy magazine.

A lot of things have been written about this man and the empire he created. When he started this magazine his initial goal was simply to create a publication that featured the best writers, some great cartoonists and some beautiful photos of some lovely women without a lot of clothing.

It was revolutionary idea that somehow worked, and Hugh Hefner wound up becoming the world’s first celebrity publisher.

Along the way, he became one of the foremost defenders of the First Amendment, the right of American citizens to be able obtain birth control (illegal in various states when the magazine first started), and along with the revolutionary work of Masters & Johnson, helped Americans educate themselves about their own human bodies, providing a shortcut for many people in their pursuit of happiness.

Of course, all of this wasn’t without controversy. Playboy was, and continues to criticized for objectifying human bodies. Certain body types do receive more attention than other body types, and nudity continues to be frowned upon within many cultures.

Luckily, nobody should be forced into buying something they don’t want. Playboy is NOT for everyone and there are many places in the world where such things are simply not allowed.

In the meantime, here’s some notes on some unlikely connections between Playboy magazine and the song LOUIE LOUIE that you may or may not know about…

1) F.B.I. Investigations of Playboy magazine and LOUIE LOUIE

Both Playboy magazine and the song LOUIE LOUIE were subjects of some serious F.B.I. investigations overseen directly by J. Edgar Hoover.

In 1985, I received a 122 page dossier on the LOUIE LOUIE investigation via an FOIA request.

In 2000, APB News received a 213-page dossier on the Playboy magazine investigation.

James Gordon Meek, one of the APB News investigative reporters assigned to the project, provided a brief overview of events that led up to the investigation of the magazine:

The 213-page dossier on Playboy was recently sent to by the FBI— appropriately, in a plain brown wrapper— in response to a U.S. Freedom of Information Act request.

The magazine, founded in 1953, rst caught the attention of agents two years later when Playboy ran a science- ction piece about G-men spying on the solar system. But it was Hefner’s outspokenness that sparked the most intense monitoring of the publication.

Hefner took a jab at Hoover in the February, 1963, issue. A column, called “Playboy Philosophy,” spelled out the magazine’s editorial credo and criticized Hoover for his stand against pornography, which Hefner said was meant to divert public attention from the FBI’s failure to get rid of the Mafia.

Hoover’s reaction to the published affront was an ominous note to his subordinates: “What do we know of H. M. Hefner?”

For more than a year, agents not only read every word of the magazine, but they summarized each issue for Hoover and his deputies.

You can obtain a copy of the FBI Playboy dossier by visiting, which has a “pay-what-you-want” interface.

2) The Playboys of Seattle – FIRST band to cover LOUIE LOUIE (1957)

Not many people realize this, but the very first band to cover Richard Berry‘s immortal song was a Seattle band that named their band after Hugh Hefner’s magazine. They not only used the name, but they also borrowed the rabbit head logo.

The Playboys initially consisted of Robert Risley (keyboards), Andy Duvall (drums, vocals), Roland Green (guitar), John O’Francia (tenor saxophone) and Carlos Ward (alto saxophone). Ron Holden later joined the band as a lead vocalist, but from what I understand, he was only with the Playboys for less than a year before leaving to join the Thunderbirds before embarking on a solo career, which led a hit record with “I Love You So” which was recorded in 1959.

A lot of people, including Buck Ormsby and Kent Morrill of the Wailers gave credit to Ron Holden & the Playboys as the first band to perform the song in the Pacific Northwest, but according to Robert Risely and Andy Duvall, the Playboys were actually performing the song before Ron joined them.

While they were the very first band to perform the song, they never released a recording of their version.

There actually IS a recording of their version of the song, captured in 1960, but we’ll save that performance and the interview with Robert and Andy for the documentary…

3) The origins of the Kingsmen name – a Playboy advertiser

One of the products that was regularly advertised in Playboy magazine between 1958 and 1967 was “King Men” after-shave, a brand owned by Helene Curtis Industries.

According to various members of the band, this was the after-shave used by Mike Mitchell, the guitarist, and they all thought this was a catchy name for the band, so they used it…

4) LOUIE LOUIE direct acknowledgement in Playboy magazine

Over the years, Playboy magazine has been very good about sharing some pro-LOUIE LOUIE tidbits.

In the July 1985 issue, Kurt Loder shared his thoughts on the song for the 20 Questions column:

Louie Louie is beautiful. I think the FBI studied it for a while. If you can picture those guys siting around listening to it. The words are easily available, but in the recording done by the Kingsmen, no one could understand what was going on. Not even the guys who were singing it. It could have been dirty. Can we imagine a time when people cared? It was a much more innocent time. I’m sure there are conservatives who wish we had Louie Louie back again and that Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg were some-where else.

The KFJC Maximum LOUIE LOUIE marathon got a nice mention on page 42 of the January 1984 issue.

(The event actually contained over 800 versions of the song and the Rhino LP was released during the weekend of the marathon in August 1983)

The Washington LOUIE state song campaign also received a welcome acknowledgement on page 33 of the July 1985 issue.

5) Little Annie by the Kingsmen – homage to the Playboy cartoon

After their big hit recording with LOUIE LOUIE, The Kingsmen followed up with a handful of songs including “Annie Fanny,” which paid tribute to “Little Annie Fanny” – the Playboy comic strip created by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder!

Never mind that it borrowed heavily from “Alley Oop”- the 1960 hit record by The Hollywood Argyles. Gary Paxton, the lead singer / producer of that particular band, produced a handful of records with Richard Berry after Richard recorded LOUIE, as well as records with Paul Revere & Raiders before their recording of LOUIE LOUIE.

It’s all in the family, right?

Thank you, Hugh Hefner!

Thank you Playboy magazine!

(all images from Playboy magazine are copyright Playboy Enterprises, Inc.)


Reference Articles

The Official Playboy Archive

The Globe and Mail- The FBI and the Playboy files – by James Gordon Meek

NY Times – Media Talk I Was a Playboy Reader for the F.B.I. – By Felicity Barringer

The FBI Files on Hugh Hefner & Playboy Enterprises

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