"LOUIE LOUIE" – the 1957 single by Richard Berry was a creative highlight for the singer, but prior to that he was involved in numerous Los Angeles-based doo-wop vocal groups including the Robins (he sang lead on their '54 hit, "Riot In Cell Block #9").
Berry also provided the male vocal lines on Etta James' "(The Wallflower) Dance With Me, Henry" in '55. In addition, Berry would cut many more discs under his own name, like '59's "Have Love Will Travel," which was adopted by several '60's NW teen-R&B combos such as Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Gallahads, Counts, & Sonics.

But it was "Louie Louie" that brought Berry lasting fame. The song was penned in '55; cut with his group, the Pharaohs, for Flip Records in '57; adopted by Tacoma's Blue Notes around '58; cut by Tacoma's Rockin' Robin Roberts (& the Wailers) in '60 (who scored a #1 regional radio hit in '61); cut by ex-Blue Note, Little Bill Engelhart, in '61; enjoyed as a #1 NW hit again by the Wailers in '62; revived simultaneously in '63 by Portland's Kingsmen & Paul Revere & the Raiders; revived again in '78 for the Animal House movie; & then in August '83, California's KFJC radio aired over 880 different versions of "Louie Louie" in a sixty-three hour-long Maximum Louie Louie marathon.
Months later -- on December 28, 1983 -- I had the opportunity to meet Berry. The occasion was KISW-FM's giant Best of Louie Louie event at the Tacoma Dome featuring performances by Berry & some of the vintage Northwest combos who were tied to the tune including: the Wailers, Kingsmen, Little Bill Engelhart, Gail Harris, & Ron Holden (who's band, the Playboys, had played the song in Seattle back around 1959).

It was Holden, in fact, who gave a shout-out to me when I entered the backstage green-room where all the artists were milling about pre-show. "Hey, Pete! Come over here & let me introduce you to somebody." Standing there in the corner with him was Berry – they'd been reminiscing about their first meet-up back in 1960. When Berry saw the stack of 45s, 78s, LPs, sheet music, & posters that I brought to have him autograph he laughed, obliged, & exclaimed that he could hardly believe that all this fuss was being made over that old tune, "Louie Louie."
After some small talk Holden excused himself, & Berry agreed to let me roll a tape & conduct an interview -- later we continued the discussion by telephone. My goal was to document Berry's recollections of his very first tour through the region so long ago back in the 1950s – when, like a bigbeat Johnny Appleseed, Berry had come striding through, planting his "Louie Louie" in the hearts of local R&B fans. Berry held plenty of memories about that tour, but he never was able to recollect the actual date (or exact dancehall) where he'd originally introduced Seattle to his immortal tune -- that was a mystery that I wouldn't solve for another two+ decades. So....sit tight for the forthcoming Part II of this saga!