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Louie Louie for the
Official Rock Song of Washington State!

 

Take Action:  Write to the Washington Governor and your Washington State legislators to urge them to make Louie Louie the official state rock song. 

For Teachers / Educators:  Many recent efforts to add new official symbols of Washington State have involved students making the case and engaging with the legislature.  So if you are a teacher or principal in a Washington State school, and would like to give your students a fun project that would teach them about the legislative process and the history of popular music in Washington, contact us and we can provide you with all the background materials you need to help you get started. 

Why Louie Louie?

As demonstrated below, Louie Louie is very significant in the history of our state.  For nearly 50 years, this song has contributed to the cultural and historical record of our state, and it continues to do so today.

The song has broad appeal to the citizens of Washington state.  It is well known and popular among all ages, genders and ethnicities.  It would represent the east and west sides of the state equally.

Historical Background

The link between the state of Washington and the song Louie Louie is profound and unprecedented – stretching nearly 50 years and continuing today as strongly as ever.

Louie Louie started out as a fairly obscure song written by rhythm & blues artist Richard Berry. But around 1960, the song was discovered by several Washington state artists who began playing it in their local shows. In 1961, Rockin’ Robin Roberts and the Wailers from Tacoma released the first cover version (and the first rock-n-roll arrangement) of Louie Louie, which became a regional hit in the Seattle-Tacoma area. After that, Louie Louie became something of a regional anthem, and seemingly every Washington rock ‘n roll band included it as part of its repertoire.

And Washington bands have continued to play and record it in disproportionate numbers. A sampling of Washington bands that have recorded Louie Louie includes: the Wailers (1961), Little Bill (1961), the Viceroys (1963), the Ventures (1965), the Sonics (1966), the Feelies (1968), Jr. Cadillac (1972), Mr. Epp (1981), the Mellowdramatics (1981), Girl Trouble (1985), George Barner and the Original Trendsetters (1985), Charlie & the Tunas (1994), and the New Original Sonic Sound (2000). Louie Louie is also a staple of the UW and WSU marching bands.

In 1985 there was an effort to make Louie Louie the official state song of Washington. The Whatcom County Council passed Resolution No. 85-12 asking the state legislature to make Louie Louie the state song, and to name a newly created county “Louie Louie County.” The legislature, unfortunately, missed this historic opportunity and failed to adopt Louie Louie as the official state song.

The Washington Senate, however, did pass Floor Resolution 37 - declaring April 12, 1985, to be "Louie Louie Day" in the state of Washington. Nearly two decades later, Governor Gary Locke proclaimed August 24, 2003, to be "Louie Louie Day." That Washington has officially designated a “Louie Louie Day” demonstrates its importance to the state. That the state did it again more than 18 years later demonstrates an enduring importance of the song that is unprecedented.

In connection with the effort to make Louie Louie the state song, the original composer of the song, Richard Berry, wrote new lyrics specifically about Washington state. In 1986, Senate Bill 5024 was introduced in the Washington Senate to declare Louie Louie, with the new lyrics, the official "rock-n-roll" song of Washington. This bill also failed to pass. For more details and links to documents associated with the original campaign in 1985-86 to make Louie Louie the state song, go here.

Nevertheless, Louie Louie is frequently referred to as the “unofficial rock song of Washington state.”  State government websites even acknowledge its status as the (unofficial) state rock song.  See for example,

In recent years, there have been many other events that demonstrate historic legacy and continuing popularity of Louie Louie in Washington state.  Here are just a few:

  • The Experience Music Project (EMP), which opened in Seattle in 2000, contains a large permanent display related to Louie Louie within its Northwest Passage exhibit, demonstrating the unique role the song played in the history of Northwest rock.
  • In 2000, at the Riverfront Park Music Festival in Spokane, there was an attempt to set a world record for the most guitarists playing simultaneously; and the song used was, of course, Louie Louie. 
  • In 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007, there were similar world record attempts at the Louie Fest events in or near Tacoma. 
  • Patch used by the Washignton State councli for the 2005 National Scout JamboreeIn 2005, Louie Louie was featured on an official Boy Scouts patch representing Washington state at the National Scout Jamboree - another example of the how Louie Louie continues to be associated with Washington state, even among our youth. 
  • Louie Louie is played during the "seventh inning stretch" of every home game of the Seattle Mariners.

All indications are that the connection between Louie Louie and Washington state will remain strong for the next 50 years - and beyond.  The Washington State Legislature should seize the opportunity to add another chapter in the enduring relationship between Washington state and Louie Louie by finally making it official that Louie Louie is the Rock and Roll song of Washington State.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is this a joke?

No. 

Doesn't the Washington State Legislature have more important things to deal with?

Yes, of course it does.  And it should do those things.  But that does not mean that it cannot also take actions that recognize and enhance the culture and history of Washington State, and promote the state as the fun and unique place that it is.

Don't other states have a claim on Louie Louie as their song as well? 

Well, it is true that Louie Louie has universal appeal and has been performed by bands across the country and around the world.  There there have been significant events in the history of Louie Louie associated with other states.  It was written by Richard Berry in California.  The most popular version, by the Kingsmen, was recorded in Oregon.  It first received broad national recognition as a result of airplay by a popular radio DJ in Massachusetts.  It was once banned by the Governor of Indiana.  There have even been attempts to make Louie Louie the official state song in Oregon and Idaho (although nether campaign generated as much attention as the campaigns in Washington). 

But while bands from Oregon and Idaho also recorded well-known versions of Louie Louie, it is clear that the origination of Louie Louie as a rock-n-roll anthem was centered squarely in Washington State.  And none of these individual connections to other states match the deep and enduring connection between Louie Louie and Washington State.  In short, the people of Washington State have already unofficially adopted Louie Louie as its state rock song.  We would just like to see the Legislature make it official. 

You mentioned that the Wailers from Tacoma were the first band to cover Louie Louie, and the first to record it as a rock song.  Is that right?

There is some disagreement over which Washington band was the first to play Louie Louie, and even over which band was the first to record it. According to some sources, a different Tacoma band – Little Bill & the Bluenotes – actually recorded the song before the Wailers, but didn’t release the single until later. There is also disagreement over which band was the first to perform Louie Louie in the Northwest, various claims that Ron Holden, the Frantics, or the Dave Lewis Combo – all Washington artists – have that honor.

Do any other states have an official state rock song?

Only one.  In 1985, the Ohio General Assembly made "Hang on Sloopy" Ohio's official rock song. See http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=1878 .  Interestingly, the campaign to accomplish this was inspired by the initial effort in 1985 to make Louie Louie the official state song of Washington. 

Attempts to make Louie Louie the state song or the state rock song failed in the mid-80s, why try again now? 

The case for making Louie Louie the official state rock song has only gotten stronger in the years since 1985-86.  Here are a few facts:

  • In 1985, the connection between Louie Louie and Washington state has been about 25 years old.  Now, the connection has endured for nearly 50 years and remains strong.  This demonstrates more clearly than ever that the song has become an enduring part of Washington's culture and history.
  • In 1987, the song "Roll on Columbia" written by Woody Guthrie was made the official folk song of Washington State.  This creates an important precedent for establishing songs in particular genres as an official symbol of Washington State.  If there can be an official folk song, there can certainly be an official rock song. 

Could this really succeed?

Sure.  We would actually like to see Louie Louie declared the official state song of Washington, replacing the very forgettable "Washington My Home" as was originally proposed in 1985.  But we're realistic.  The legislature is much more likely to agree to make it the official rock song.  Will we succeed?  Who knows?  But let's have some fun trying . . .

 

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