Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Song of the Week: Rockin Robin Roberts - Louie Louie

What you have here is the missing link. This is the version of Louie Louie that became the benchmark for future versions. It is by Rockin Robin Roberts and the backup band, though not credited on the label, is none other than The Wailers. The Wailers had just produced a #38 charting instrumental for another label and thus could not be credited. In fact, Etiquette Records was The Wailers' own creation to get out from under their old contract with Golden Crest. This recording of Louie Louie, is, as you can see from the scan above, the first record Etiquette ever released.

Rockin Robin Roberts and the Wailers recorded this version of Louie Louie in Tacoma, Washington in 1960 and released the single in early '61. This recording marks the first published rock recording of the song. It also has a few other historically important notables. Roberts and The Wailers move the song from the calypso beat to the now familiar downbeat. They also moved the song from it's original key of G, to Bb. And Roberts introduces the guitar lead, which is clearly the riff that the Kingsmen and other bands replicated, with the all important "Now let's give it to them, right now!"

The Wailers would go on to garage lore with songs like Hang Up and the wicked Out Of Our Tree. Rockin Robin Roberts, unfortunately, died an early death due to an auto accident in 1967.


  1. Perhaps they changed the key to accommodate the tenor sax, which is in the key of Bflat (very similar to A#).

    Is this taken from the 45 in your collection? I've come across a version on youtube with a tambourine and no background vocals.

    I also noticed that the signature riff: 123, 12, 123, 12 evident at the start of the Rockin' Robin Roberts version changes to 1234, 12, 1234, 12 later in the song. I'm not aware of any other version that does that.

  2. That is taken direct from the 45rpm pictured above. Not sure of the other version you have heard.

  3. Here's a link to the alternate version: http://youtu.be/ihpGNoCreyg

  4. Hmmm, definitely different. A little slower in addition to the tambourine and backup vocal thing. Maybe it is the audition record. Often times those audition records received constructive criticism and another take would be pressed for the actual release. This is the case with The Leaves first version of Hey Joe. Very different -- and wildly manic -- audition record version compared to the normal pressed version. That first release of Hey Joe is quite the find.