When Springtime Comes to Philadelphia, Even the Robins Sing Louie Louie
updated 05/25/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/25/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT
So, Louie, Louie, they went.
The Gorilla Luau of Newtown, Pa. went, in gorilla suits. The Nikki Hoi Fire Brigade went too, on a green fire truck. So did the Trojan Gum Hummers, who, er, well, more about them later. The point is, so did 55,000 other Philadephians. Louie, they boogied along Pattison Avenue 1.3 miles to JFK stadium. They hadda go.
It was Philadelphia's third anuual Louie Louie Parade.
The song was written by Richard Berry in 1955. Eight years later the Kingsmen cut a quickie version, paying only $40 dollars for recording-studio time. Consequently, nobody could understand the lyrics after the first line. Consequently (Tipper Gore, take note) everybody assumed they were dirty. Consequently, the song sold 12 million copies. A lot more people recorded it. It starred in Animal House. In 1985 John DeBella (below, with microphone), a popular Philadelphia morning disc jockey, heard about a California radio station that played different versions of Louie Louie for 24 hours, he had an epiphany. "I thought it would be fun to have a parade for no reason," he says. "And the no reason would be Louie Louie."
It was no reason enough. So many people showed up that year to sing and hum the tune (they still don't know the lyrics) that DeBella did it again in '86, and 60,000 participated. This year's parade included 42 "special acts" like the Luau and the Gum Hummers, safe-sex advocates who (Tipper Gore, faint) passed out condoms. The event crescendoed with a final chorus led by a local band, the Flamin' Caucasians, in front of the stadium. A big Louie. The Louie heard 'round the world. Or at least in Scranton.