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Louie Lives

Louie Louie lp cover

Local video producer Eric Predoehl remembers rock composer Richard Berry

By Todd S. Inoue

Eric Predoehl has more than just a passing interest in the famous rock song "Louie, Louie." The local video producer was part of the 1983 KFJC (89.7FM) "Louie, Louie" marathon that sparked a national resurgence for the goofy party favorite. It also sparked a friendly relationship between Predoehl and "Louie, Louie" composer Richard Berry, who passed away January 23 of a heart aneurysm.

Berry's death puts a sad conclusion to Predoehl's documentary on Berry's life, The Meaning of Louie. Predoehl was in South Central L.A. for the funeral, at which Etta James and Christy Berry, Richard's youngest daughter, performed.

"He was one of the most positive people I've ever met in my life," said Predoehl. "If it weren't for him, I'd have given up on the project."

To appreciate fully Predoehl's obsession with "Louie, Louie," take a look at his web page.

The KFJC marathon got national attention and put Berry back in the spotlight. Berry got a chance to perform in England and was blown away by the royal treatment bestowed upon American R&B artists. After scraping by on welfare, Berry won back his rights to his most famous song and started getting royalty checks in 1986.

"It tickles me that in spite of it all, he didn't leave South Central," says Predoehl, who explained that Berry began receiving $100,000 a year in past royalties. "He'd talk about getting a place by the beach, but he stuck around. All the kids around here called him Captain Louie. He was the cool guy down the block who wrote 'Louie, Louie'. Everyone was touched by the guy's generosity."

Predoehl's proposed 20-minute documentary turned into a full-length feature as his friendship with Berry flourished. "We had interesting conversations about the government, the music business, upcoming musical projects. The more I learned about him, the more I learned that he was an amazing story. It's become my Zen quest thesis project disguised as a feature documentary."

Subversive Louie

The single most bizarre thing Predoehl dredged up was the FBI file opened on "Louie, Louie" back in the 1960s. "People were moving around doing abstract investigations about it," says Predoehl. "It was a very dada artistic movement perpetuated by the U.S. government. It made no sense whatsoever. One of the funniest things I read was how they found it to be 'incomprehensible at any speed.' "

The documentary is on hold as Predoehl hunts for funding. He is weighing a move to L.A., where he could "camp underneath the doorsteps" of movie moguls. The documentary, the bulk of which is already shot, would be a combination of Roger & Me, Let's Get Lost, Crumb and This Is Spinal Tap.

Predoehl is sad Berry will never be able to see it, but he hopes others will be able to feel the essence of Louie.

"I want people to be able to go down to the library, go down to the video store, pick up The Meaning of Louie, and learn about the mystery. It has a strange appeal like no other sound."

And what is this mystery of "Louie, Louie"? What does it mean?

"I can't tell you," said Predoehl, secretively. "You have to wait for the documentary."

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A web exclusive to the January 30-February 5, 1997 issue of Metro

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