The Incredible True Story of the FBI Investigation the Song ‘Louie Louie’
One of the strangest lyrics that launched an FBI investigation, The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie” has a history, unlike any other song. Here’s the story of The Kingsmen’s huge hit “Louie Louie” and the FBI.
The back story dates back to a song written by Richard Berry in 1956 with his band The Pharaohs. Released the song as a B side to another song, “You are my Sunshine.” Just before the release, Berry sold the publishing and songwriting rights for “Louie Louie” and four other songs for $750 to raise cash for his upcoming wedding.
The B side of the 45 “Louie Louie” started getting airplay on the west coast. The record was re-released as an A-side single and sold 130,000 copies but didn’t make the top 40 charts.
April 1963 The Kingsmen chose to record the song “Louie Louie” on their own in, Portland Oregon. Folklore has it that they went into a recording studio for $50 and cut the song in one hour. The Kingsmen version is far different than Richard Berry’s version. Raw, loud, sloppy, and a chaotic guitar solo on the only words you could understand on the recording. “Okay, let’s give it to ’em right now!”
They released their version to no fanfare as the record did nothing on the radio. The band even thought of breaking up. Then a Boston DJ played it on his show called, The worst record of the Week. The result was the opposite as listeners loved it. “Louie Louie” went all the way to #2 for 6 weeks. What kept it from the #1 spot? An artist called The Singing Nun’s song, “Dominique.”
The song was banned on many radio stations including in Indiana, where a ban was requested by the governor. The FBI started over a 2+ year investigation into the song and concluded they were “unable to interpret any of the lyrics.” The FBI Director at the time said, “J. Edgar Hoover felt we were corrupting the moral fiber of America’s youth, “The FBI guys came to shows, and stood next to the speakers to hear if we were singing anything bad. The FBI even had a file on the band. Check out more by clicking here.
For many years the rumors about its supposed dirty lyrics. Part of the urban legend said that if you spun the 45 rpm single at 33 1/3, you could hear all the offending lines more clearly. Trust me it didn’t work but still tried it. Even the fact checker site Snopes.com took a stab at what the lyrics are saying. Click Here to check it out.
Finally, in 1978 the song was made popular by the National Lampoon’s John Landis movie “Animal House.”