Friday, September 03, 2004

Louiemania


I’ve named this thing in honor of my obsession of the week, that exquisite classical composition which has come down through the ages with the simple sobriquet of Louie Louie. This is a recurring obsession, usually brought on by a chance hearing of the song. Over the years since 1963 my parents, neighbors and wives have suffered through it at irregular intervals. Now, however, it’s become an annual ritual.

Last August, the first Louie Fest/1000 Guitars event was held a couple hours up the road in Tacoma, Washington. The party was organized by the surviving members of The Wailers, the legendary Tacoma garage band that had the first Northwest hit with the song in 1961. It was The Wailers’ version that inspired The Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders to record their own renditions two years later in Portland.

The idea behind Louie Fest was to gather a thousand or more guitar players to attempt a new world’s record for most people performing together. The Wailers and Kingsmen got together and gathered a gang of celebrity guitar players – and even lined up Paul Revere to act as honorary conductor. Naturally, I had a serious case of Louiemania the moment I heard about it.

So I dusted off my old Gibson Country Western flattop box and blistered my fingers trying to rebuild my long-lost calluses. I banged out those three immortal chords every day for a month until I finally got them down. When the big day finally arrived, Portland rock star Brian Trainer (of The Excellent Berries, CenterLine, Harold Disney and the Naked Lady Brainfarts – and currently Rock Residue) roared up I-5 to rendezvous with Tacoma guitarslinger Cap’n Bob Napier (who played and sang lead for the late great Mystery and Detective Monthly) and proceeded to Cheney Stadium.

They lined us up in three groups in the outfield: Accoustics, Electric w/o amps, and Electric with amps. Those without amps were fed into the PA system via special hookups or microphones. Since Bob and Brian were in the electric with amp section, I snuck over to their side and found a convenient mike to make noise into. And we began warming up.

The warm-up alone was worth the price of admission. Several hundred folks fooling around and showing off on any number of different songs was a unique experience for the eardrums. After fifteen minutes of this, the guys on stage finally got us calmed down enough to start Louie-ing, and it roared out like a thunderclap. Duh-Duh-Duh! Duh-Duh! Duh-Duh-Duh!

The music was deafening. The beat jarred the earth until we were all bouncing on the soundwaves, six inches off the grass. Up on stage, we occassionally saw Kent Morrill of The Wailers or Dick Peterson of The Kingsmen with his mouth to a mike and suspected they may have been singing, but who knew? We had those Duhs pounding through our blood and were oblivious to all else.

As we later learned, the celebrity band on stage finished the song after 4 1/2 minutes, and probably thought we'd quit too. But the thunder kept on rolling, so they eventually joined in and did the whole song a second time. Somehow, after that second time, they got us to stop. I still don't know how. Maybe they hosed us down. Maybe they shot a few guys. Or maybe they cut the power. But finally the Duh-Duhs petered out and we floated back to earth.

In the end, we fell short of the thousand mark, but had a hell of a good time. The world’s record remained in the hands of a 1,342 Canadians who did “Takin’ Care of Business” in 1992. No wonder I’ve always hated that song.

Pictures of Louie Fest 1 appeared in various spots on the web, but the best I can currently find, including a video, can be seen at:
http://www.rikkbeatty.com/louielouie.html

The Wailers resolved to try again in 2004. And so did we. And so we did. Louie Fest 2 took place last weekend, accounting for my latest case of the mania. More on that next time, but for now, Me Gotta Go.........

1 Comments:

Blogger Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Thanks for sending me your blog, Dave. I can't wait until you cover some of your other obsessions like Davy Crockett, Sherlock Holmes, and poontang.

I was editor and publisher of Mystery & Detective Monthly, of which you colorfully called me lead guitar and singer. I was, however, lead singer of a garage band called The Violations way back in 1965. We didn't do "Louie, Louie" but concentrated on the Beatles, Stones, Chuck Berry, and a few others. I was at best an average voice, and when the lead guitar was turned down by a girl who said she preferred me, I found myself out in the cold. Over the years my voice has progressed from average to awful, so I guess I didn't lose out on a fledgling career as a crooner by that youthful contretemps.

Happy Trails,

Cap'n Bob

September 3, 2004 at 3:08 PM  

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