Richard Berry was the composer and original 1957 performer of the iconic song "Louie Louie", a ballad which was actually based on "El Loco Cha Cha" by Cuban composer René Touzet that would eventually become a rocking standard after a mega-hit by the Kingsmen in '63. It could make a claim as THE most recorded rock song. Unfortunately, Berry had traded the song's publishing rights for $750 two years after his record came out, thus losing the rewards to come.
He came up in Los Angeles, singing doo-wop. He sang in a version of The Penguins, plus you can hear him with The Flairs and on some Etta James records and with Arthur Lee Maye, as well as lead vocal on "Riot In Cell Block #9" by The Robins (who later became The Coasters). He wrote the lyrics to "Louie Louie" on toilet paper, cut the disk, and some touring in the Pacific Northwest led to a cult following and subsequent versions re-interpreted, including the Kingsmen hit that opened the floodgates to thousands of versions.
A few notable covers to seek out of the iconic tune: Otis Redding, the Sonics, Beach Boys, Motorhead, Toots & the Maytalls, John Belushi, Patti Smith, George Duke, Black Flag, Barry White, Sherman Hemsley and tons more!
In the '80s Berry finally earned some long-overdue financial rewards, with a legal settlement making him an overnight millionaire.
Check him out on lead vocal in this pre-Coasters group in '54:
The awesome "Crazy Lover" from '55, later covered by the Rollins Band:
He's uncredited here with Etta James:
Here's the '57 OG of "Louie Louie":