There are two credited writers of this song: Gene Pitney and Cayet Mangiaracina.
Pitney is a rock legend whose biggest hits as an artist - "Only Love Can Break A Heart
" and "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance
" were written by the Burt Bacharach-Hal David team. Pitney also wrote some hits for other artists, including "He's A Rebel
" for The Crystals and "Rubber Ball
" for Bobby Vee. He wrote and recorded "Hello Mary Lou," but he had another single out so his record company didn't release it. Meanwhile, his publisher shopped the song around to various artists, including Ricky Nelson, whose version became a huge hit.
In 1957, a New Orleans group called The Sparks released a song called "Mary, Mary Lou," which goes:Mary, Mary Lou
Why must you do
The things that you always do
In this song, Mary Lou runs off to marry another man, leaving our hero heartbroken.
Cayet Mangiaracina, who was a member of The Sparks, wrote it in 1954 and the band started playing it at their gigs. Mangiaracina, who said there was no Mary Lou and that the lyric just sounded good, left the band in 1956, but the following year they won a "battle of the bands" competition that earned them a deal with Decca Records to record the song and release it as a single. The Sparks version went nowhere, but Bill Haley and Sam Cooke both covered it, Haley in 1957 and Cooke the following year.
After "Hello Mary Lou" became a hit, Cayet Mangiaracina's publisher, Champion Music, took legal action and got a share of the song, with Mangiaracina listed as a co-writer along with Pitney. Mangiaracina became priest and claimed to give royalties from the song to the Southern Dominican Province, where he served.
Pitney, who died in 2006, never spoke of Mangiaracina or the lawsuit.