Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Rerun: All The Kingsmen

Pretty Boy?
You really have to hand it to the FBI.  Anyone who looks at the history of America (which rules out most people in most schools) knows that they rounded up John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson, Ma Barker and Pretty Boy Floyd during the 1930s, and although there was later an argument concerning Mr Floyd's relative beauty, FBI big man J. Edgar Hoover, dressed in a stunning evening gown of the finest silk brocade, finally ruled in favor of the notorious Midwestern bank robber.  As part of the legal settlement of the matter, Babyface Nelson won the right never to be referred to by his real name, which, as any schoolkid knows, was Lester J. Gillis.

Your FBI in action
Lest he see his agency become irrelevant, J. Edgar Hoover had his "G-Men" investigate whether or not entertainers were communists, protected the Civil Rights of minorities by wiretapping Dr Martin Luther King, and allowed four men to be wrongfully convicted of murder while protecting one of their ten million informants (March, 1965.)  The term "G-Man," incidentally, came about during the arrest of Lester J. Gillis, who, brought by proud agents into Hoover's office, reportedly quipped, "Gee, man, are you wearing a dress?"

Ah, but surely the FBI's finest moment had to be when they spent two years at taxpayer expense investigating the lyrics to "Louie Louie."  "Louie Louie" was a song written as sort of a calypso-Cha-Cha-Jamaican number by a guy named Richard Berry in the late 50's.  His version of the song never quite took off, but The Kingsmen, out of Portland, Oregon, cut it in 1964.  They were a local band performing in a teen night club owned by a local disc jockey, and trust me, you could get a better recording today by using a Radio Shack portable cassette machine.  You can hear the original version right here! And you can see the real lyrics vis-a-vis the "dirty" version that was passed among the students of every public high school and junior high school here on Snopes.  Every kid knew, all you had to do was play the 45 of "Louie Louie" at 33 1/3 rpm to hear the true lyrics, a rumor which no doubt was started by the record company selling all those 45s.  But in the end, Hoover's crack laboratory was not able to decipher the lyrics, even after they interrogated Jack Ely, the lead singer of The Kingsmen.  

I've often wondered how that interrogation went.  Did they sit him down in a small room with just one naked 100-watt bulb aimed right at him, and did they say, "All right, we know you're dirty, see?  You're singing dirty, kid, and we wanna know what you're singing, see?  So don't get cute, kid, just talk.  Or sing. I don't care.  See?"

Myself, I was never much of a Kingsmen fan.  Out of intense family loyalty, I was more devoted to my distant cousin Doug Clark and The Hot Nuts, the real-life version of Otis Day and the Knights.  Here's another song that old J. Edgar should have checked into.  

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