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Monday, August 25, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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754 guitars rock into the record book with 'Louie Louie'

Seattle Times staff reporter

Louie Louie


The lyrics to "Louie Louie" by Richard Berry, copyright 1957-63 by Limax Music, according to "The Straight Dope" by Cecil Adams as posted on the songlyrics.com Web site:

Louie Louie, me gotta go.
Louie Louie, me gotta go.

A fine girl, she wait for me.
Me catch the ship across the sea.
I sailed the ship all alone.
I never think I'll make it home.

Louie Louie, me gotta go.

Three nights and days we sailed the sea.
Me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there.
I smell the rose in her hair.

Louie Louie, me gotta go.

Me see Jamaican moon above.
It won't be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I never leave again.

Louie Louie, me gotta go.

TACOMA — The relentless din of three famous chords echoed around and around Cheney Stadium yesterday afternoon, and by the time the reverb finally subsided, there was a world record.

In what was believed to be the largest gathering of people to simultaneously play the song, an estimated 754 guitarists pounded out an almost 10-minute rendition of the classic rock anthem "Louie Louie" in the key of A.

Organizers last night were awaiting an exact tally, with the results going to Guinness World Records. They were certain they had smashed the record for most guitarists playing "Louie Louie" at one time, which was believed to be about 20. Less certain was the record for most guitarists playing at once.

"Absolutely too goofy, too funny," said Jay Bates, 36, a Puyallup high-school teacher, after playing alongside his older brother David and 6-year-old son Connor. "You couldn't stay away from this if you wanted."

The guitarists arrived at the baseball stadium about three hours early and arranged themselves in the outfield. Acoustic guitars went to left field. Electric guitars without amps plugged into outlets in center. Those who brought their own amps — about 200 people — set up in right.

There were men, women and children, with a wide range of skills and styles: tattoos, long hair, goatees, Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses, shiny silver vests and cowboy hats.

"It's a good excuse to dust off the guitar; it's been awhile," said Tim Holmes, 50, a Gig Harbor chiropractor and one of the few players wearing a tie. "A lot of us are nostalgic with feelings of Woodstock."

"I'm a hacker, but I learned 'Louie Louie.' It's my generation," said Bob Jones, 49, a Fred Meyer grocer from Tacoma who has been playing the guitar about a year. "It's the father of three-chord rock, or the grandfather."

The technical requirements of yesterday's feat included 62 microphones, 74 plug-ins for guitarists without amplifiers, dozens of speakers and hundreds of yards of cables and wires.

As people looked on from the stands, dozens of local professional musicians — including members from bands like Heart, Jr. Cadillac, Moby Grape, and the Rikk Beatty Band — packed a stage near second base.

Northwest rock legend Paul Revere conducted while wearing his trademark Revolutionary War-era hat and uniform.

Also on stage were members of the Wailers, the 1950s Tacoma rock band that originally arranged "Louie Louie," and the Kingsmen, who re-recorded the song in 1963 and made it into a national hit. The song was also a hit for Paul Revere & the Raiders.

At one time, the song was emulated by every aspiring Northwest garage band. The local TV show "Almost Live" almost succeeded with a tongue-in-cheek campaign in the mid-1980s to make "Louie Louie" the state song.

The older guitar players said the song brought back memories of high-school dances and rebelling against parents.

Younger generations said it was simply a fun song, or the chance to set a record, or to get together with family members.

One of the staff volunteers, Jason Webb, 52, played alongside his 11-year-old grandson, D.J., who had practiced the song on a laptop steel guitar for four days.

Each participant paid a $20 registration fee. Money from the event was dedicated to South Puget Sound area Boys and Girls Clubs, specifically for arts and music programs.

Organizers had hoped for 1,000 guitars, and promised they'd be back next year.

In June, at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, 520 guitarists strummed Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." Organizers there said that event set the record for the largest guitar band playing for the longest period of time — more than an hour.

The Tacoma event was organized by Grey Wolf productions of Seattle.

Michael Ko: 206-515-5653 or mko@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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