Little Latin Lupe Lu

Album: Right Now (1963)
Charted: 49
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Songfacts®:

  • Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers wrote this song. It's about a girl he dated at Santa Ana High School in California named Lupe Laguna, whose nickname was "Lupe Lu."
  • Medley recalls being 19 years old when he wrote this tune, which he refers to as "a silly little song." It is a very simple song with lyrics about a girl who likes to dance, but that simplicity gave the song legs, as it became a garage band favorite.
  • The Kingsmen took this song to #46 US in 1964, and Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels made #17 US with their version in 1966.
  • This is the song that launched The Righteous Brothers. Medley and Bobby Hatfield were in a 5-piece band called The Paramours when Medley wrote it. He taught the song to Hatfield, then contacted Ray Maxwell, the owner of a local label called Moonglow Records, who came to hear the duo sing it. Maxwell had them record the song, but since it was just Hatfield and Medley, they needed a new name.

    There was a marine base nearby, and some of the marines would refer to the duo as "righteous brothers," which is how they chose the name.

    Nothing happened when the song was released, but then Hatfield and Medley took some gigs at The Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California, which was a surf ballroom where Dick Dale played.

    "We were fish-out-of-water, we were R&B guys," Medley said. "We didn't want to go down there, but we said, OK. We would sing it, and it fit this surf dance that they were doing, so they said, 'We love that song.' They went to buy it and the record store said, 'Never heard of it.' So Bobby Hatfield and our road manager took about 1500 copies to the record store, and we told the kids where to buy them. Well, 1500 kids when down and bought this record. In those days, some of the radio stations would call record stores to see what was selling."

    The radio station was KRLA in Los Angeles. The song took off when a DJ used it as backing music to promote a record hop - these promos ran more often than the songs, so it got a lot of spins that way. Soon the station was getting requests for the song, and it became a local hit. This led to a distribution deal with VeeJay Records to issue the song nationally.
  • Listening to this song, it's hard to believe it's the same group that is famous for their soulful ballads "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Unchained Melody." Those songs were produced by Phil Spector, who bought The Righteous Brothers' contract in 1964 and used outside songwriters to compose their hits.

    The early songs by the duo were far more playful, but provided a great foundation for their later work. In our Bill Medley interview, he explained: "They got the ball rolling for us and I think those songs were the perfect kind of songs and the way we recorded them to show who The Righteous Brothers were."
  • The Righteous Brothers performed this on the short-lived variety show Shindig!, which launched in 1964. The song was aimed at teenagers, and this song was a perfect fit, especially when it was augmented by dancers. Exposure on the show gave the duo a huge boost and helped expose them to a national audience.

Comments: 3

  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaMy fav of the guys tunes, am wondering if that is the Wrecking Crew playing on it.
  • Babbling Babette from Tulsa OkI still love this song by the Righteous Brothers. I also love the version by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. Mitch was in fine voice on their single 45 rpm. I love how it was arranged. Their version is more of a party song & I love that!! I love the Righteous Bros. for their later hits, especially with Phil Spector.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 15th 1966, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels performed "Little Latin Lupe Lu" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    The following month on February 27th, 1966 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #88; and five weeks later on April 3rd, 1966 it peaked at #17 {for 2 weeks} and spent 9 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reaching #93 in Australia...
    Between 1965 and 1967 the group had seven Top 100 records; with three of them making the Top 10, "Jenny Take a Ride!'* {#10 in 1966}, "Devil With A Blue Dress" {#4 in 1966}, and "Sock It to Me - Baby" {#6 1967}...
    Mitch Ryder, as a solo artist, had four records make the Top 100...
    * On the same 'Bandstand' show the group also performed "Jenny Take a Ride!"
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