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Ricky Nelson's version of this song, issued as a double A-side with his No. 1 hit "Travelin' Man", reached No. 9 on the Billboard music charts on May 28, 1961. In the United Kingdom it reached No. 2. It was also a hit in much of Europe, particularly Norway, where it spent 14 weeks at No. 1. In New Zealand, the song reached No. 4.
"Hello Mary Lou" is similar to an earlier song, "Merry, Merry Lou", written by Cayet Mangiaracina and recorded by his band, the Sparks, in 1957 on a single released by Decca Records. It was covered by Bill Haley & His Comets as "Mary, Mary Lou" and released as a single later in 1957, also by Decca, and by Sam Cooke in 1958 for the Keen Records label. Mangiaracina would later become ordained as a Catholic priest. When "Hello Mary Lou" was released, the publisher of "Merry, Merry Lou", Champion Music (an arm of Decca Records), sued for plagiarism and a settlement was reached. Mangiaracina was given co-writing credit for "Hello Mary Lou" and a share of the song's royalties, while Champion received a share of the publishing