Richard Berry Biography

11 April 1935, Extension, Louisiana, USA, d. 23 January 1997, USA. Berry was raised in Los Angeles, where he learned piano, playing along with the records of Joe Liggins And His Honeydrippers. In high school he formed a vocal group and began recording in 1953 under various names (the Hollywood Blue Jays, the Flairs, the Crowns, the Dreamers, the Pharaohs), as well as doing solo sessions for Modern Records Flair subsidiary. His most famous moments on record are his bass vocal contributions to the Robins’ ‘Riot In Cell Block No. 9’ and as ‘Henry’, Etta James’ boyfriend, on her early classic ‘Roll With Me Henry (The Wallflower)’. His main claim to fame is composing rock ‘n’ roll’s famous standard ‘Louie Louie’, which he recorded in 1956 on Flip Records, but he had to wait seven years for its success with the Kingsmen’s hit. The song spawned countless cover versions, including those by the Kinks, the Beach Boys and Paul Revere And The Raiders, none of which approached the Kingsmen’s definitive recording. The sensual rhythm and theme of the song led to Berry’s being accused of writing pornographic lyrics, but as they were virtually unintelligible, Berry took their secret to the grave with him. During the 60s and 70s, Berry, inspired by Bobby Bland and his wife Dorothy (herself a recording artist), became a soul singer. He recorded for myriad west coast labels (including his debut album for Johnny Otis’ Blues Spectrum label) and continued performing into the 90s until his death.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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