Freak List – Randomized, Homogenized And Scrutinized (Richard Berry)
Another episode in a ongoing series that takes a casual look at the members of the Frank Zappa Freak Out List. In the spirit of aimlessness, the list has been randomized.
Richard Berry is the guy who wrote “Louie, Louie”. That one act qualifies him for immortality.
But, Berry did a lot of other cool stuff during his long career that spanned from the early ’50s up until shortly before his passing in 1997.
FZ had this to say…
“Without getting the credit for it he made so much of what happened in R&B possible and so many people wouldn’t have been there at all without him. He was one of the most important secret sources behind the West Coast R&B in the fifties and now he’s walking around trying to get a contract.
I interviewed him when I did a piece for Life magazine and he told me he sold the rights for ‘Louie Louie’ for 5,000 dollars. He was working with a Latin band at a place called the Harmony Park Ballroom and the band had an instrumental that went … (sings ‘Louie Louie’ rhythm) and he scribbled the lyrics out on a paper napkin in the dressing room. It’s always been one of my favourite fantasies that songs like ‘Wooly Bully’ get written on a lunch bag in blue crayon.”
Berry did some hired gun work for the great Leiber and Stoller including the intro and bass vocal on “Riot In Cell Block #9″ by The Robins, a group that later morphed in to The Coasters.
Berry was also the male voice on the huge hit record, “Roll With Me Henry”, by Etta James.
He was involved in a string of Doo-Wop groups like The Penguins, The Cadets and The Flairs before starting The Pharoahs who cut this hip track, “Have Love, Will Travel”…
I was going to include the original “Louie Louie” but, I came across this live version with Ry Cooder on slide guitar, Tim Drummond on bass, Scott Mathews on drums, Steve Douglas on saxophone, and Johnny Johnson on piano that’s too good to resist…
And of course, Frank Zappa had an extensive relationship with the song that has been covered pretty comprehensively here.