Won’t Somebody Think of the Children? - Louie, Louie, The Salad Toss, and Hysteria in the Heartland


America’s culture war stems from roots that grow deep. It’s a puritanical streak that runs from Plymouth Rock right through the generation gap of the 1960s. In all times and places, the forces of purity, chastity, and modesty have an incredible capacity to see smut and perversion where none exists.

Dateline - January 23, 1964. Two well-meaning teens from Frankfort, Indiana have recently come into possession of hard, incontrovertible proof that the heretofore incomprehensible words to the Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie” are actually descriptive of acts that would make a hooker blush.

Their evidence? A handwritten lyric sheet being passed around their high school. They are good kids, and they’re not going to stand for pornographic intrusion into their small town world. They write the governor of Indiana, Democrat Matthew E. Welsh, who on their tip, along with the attorney general of Indiana, spends an afternoon listening to the hit 45, procured by an aide from an Indianapolis record shop.

Even though Governor Welsh was listening to the same recording I have known and loved since I was a child, he concluded that his teen-aged informants were onto something.  There was probably something lewd happening amidst all of that low fidelity mumbling. His press secretary said that the alleged obscenity was "indistinct" but "plain if you listen carefully." Welsh promptly urged all station directors in the state to ban the song from their airwaves.

One of the original tipsters wrote to Governor Welsh.  His letter is now in the Indiana State Archives - "You should be given a round of applause for your strong stand against this record, Much is written about the declining morals of the American teen-ager. However, most people don't realize that if the morals are declining, and I doubt if they are, it is because of 'smut' such as this record, put out by adults whose only concern is in making a fast buck."

The FBI would later get in on the action. Their 118-page report concluded that “the recording was hurriedly produced and the technique was poor… (lyrics are) unintelligible at any speed.”

But that is not a crime.

The whole case proves we hear what we want to hear, especially when sex is (or is not) involved.

In the world of Flashback to Never, one of the biggest dance crazes of 1962 is “The Salad Toss.” The lyrics - and accompanying dance - sent the sensible city fathers of Bloomington, Indiana into a frenzy.  Look at these words (which can be plainly heard on the recording, I might add):

Start with lettuce, throw in tomatoes

Drop in the carrots, maybe even potatoes

Thousand island, vinaigrette  

Whatever you add, you won’t regret

Everybody do the salad toss

Everybody do the salad toss

It’s just like the chicken, but keep it close

Toss that salad, it’s really the most

Everybody do the salad toss

Filthy.  You know what they’re really talking about. And you should see the dance that goes along with it. It leaves nothing to the imagination - and the town fathers of Bloomington had quite the imagination.

See what all the fuss is about on Flashback to Never.