Unintelligible at Any Speed By Johnny Mystery
Written by Staff on March 4, 2022
Whether you believe that our truly original art form started in the upper Midwest or the Mississippi Delta, where the devil met Robert Johnson at the crossroads, or somewhere else.
It was born on the back porches of unknown sharecroppers after working 16 hours a day in the field. It was played on three-string box guitars with milk bottle slides. The music would define generations. Several generations.
Blues would eventually need a beat and become rhythm and blues. Countless artists would form the guitar-based drums band that would become the basic rock ‘n roll group. They made thousands of mostly forgotten records. Richard Berry made one of these records and it was called “Louie, Louie”. If you listen closely, you can almost hear it. Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.
It is basically a shanty about a sailor lamenting to a bartender about his longing to visit his girl in Jamaica. He can smell the roses in her hair. Apparently, Richard needed money so he could marry his own flower-haired girl. Hence, he sold the publishing away to “Louie, Louie”.
“Louie, Louie” by Richard Berry was discovered by a slew of bands in the Northwest. Not only was it a fun song to play, but it was also an easy song to play, as well as a crowd pleaser. Groups like The Sonics, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and The Kingsmen all recorded their own versions.
It was The Kingsmen’s version that became the hit. It rose to the top of the national charts in 1963. Because of its mumbled vocals, and the fact that it was crudely recorded in less than an hour for 50 bucks, kids started making up their own words to it. They sang it at the top of their lungs and passed notes back and forth in class. It wasn’t long before the adults started pushing the action button against this filth infiltrating the lives of the children.
Soon the FBI got wind, and having nothing better to do, they spent a year investigating Louie. They talked to the band. They talked to the writers. They talked to the DJs! They played it backwards. The played it forward at 33, 45, and 78. J. Edgar’s boys could only come to the conclusion that it was unintelligible at any speed.
Pretty much all they accomplished was getting the record higher sales. Tell kids they can’t have something, and they’ll just want it more.
With that be sure to get over to the American Legion Post on 111 Main Ave in Wynantskill on March 27th. Starting at 2pm, The Lawn Sausages and a bunch of other local musicians will spend about six hours playing “Louie, Louie” to raise money for the local food pantry.