LOS ANGELES (CN) – Gusto Records claims The Kingsmen owe it $200,000 in royalties for “Louie Louie,” the song the FBI investigated for obscenity, then decided that it was “unintelligible at any speed.”
Ownership of the song has been the subject of decades of legal battles. Gusto Records, which says it once owned rights to the song, sued The Kingsmen, the band’s licensing arm and its five members, or general partners, in Superior Court.
The Portland, Ore.-based band recorded the hit song in 1963 on Seattle-based Jerden Records. The song spent 16 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has been covered by other bands more than 1,000 times.
Jerden sold the master recording to Scepter Records in October 1963, which agreed to pay the company royalties. Gusto Records says it is the successor-in-interest to Scepter.
The Kingsmen sued in California’s Central District in 1993 to rescind the contracts between Jerden and Scepter records, Gusto says in its complaint.
“The legal theory upon which The Kingsmen asserted legal standing to seek rescission was that they had acquired Jerden’s rights and ‘stood in Jerden’s shoes,” the complaint states.
In 1995, a judge found for The Kingsmen and granted them ownership of the master recordings of “Louie Louie,” rescinding the contracts between Jerden and Scepter.
“Without the benefit of the Kingsmen/Jerden Agreement, and the use of Jerden’s contractual rights to receive payment from the exploitation of the Jerden/Kingsmen Master Sound Recordings, The Kingsmen and the individual defendants would not have obtained judgment in their favor in the Kingsmen action,” the complaint states.
Gusto Records claims The Kingsmen have made $2 million since 1993 from their exploitation of the original contracts.
Gusto demands damages for breach of contract.
The individual defendants are the band’s manager Richard Peterson, and its original members Norm Sundholm, Barry Curtis, Lynn Easton and Michael Mitchell.
Not named as a defendant is singer Jack Ely, who left the band in 1963.
Gusto is represented by Robert Besser.