The Kingsmen

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The Kingsmen
1963 "Louie Louie" line-up. L-R Don Gallucci, Jack Ely, Lynn Easton, Mike Mitchell, and Bob Nordby
Background information
Origin Portland, Oregon, United States
Years active1959–present
Labels Jerden, Wand, Sundazed
MembersMike Mitchell
Dick Peterson
Kim Nicklaus
Steve Peterson
Todd McPherson
Dennis Mitchell
Past membersLynn Easton
Jack Ely
Bob Nordby
Don Gallucci
Gary Abbott
Norm Sundholm
Barry Curtis
Kerry Magness
J.C. Reick
Turley Richards
Pete Borg
Jeff Beals
Steve Friedson
Yank Barry [1]
Fred Dennis
Andy Parypa
Marc Willett

The Kingsmen are a 1960s beat/garage rock band from Portland, Oregon, United States. They are best known for their 1963 recording of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie", which held the No. 2 spot on the Billboard charts for six weeks. The single has become an enduring classic.

Beat music, British beat, or Merseybeat is a popular music genre that developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1960s. Beat music is a fusion of rock and roll, doo-wop, skiffle and R&B. The genre provided many of the bands responsible for the British Invasion of the American pop charts starting in 1964, and provided the model for many important developments in pop and rock music, including the format of the rock group around lead, rhythm and bass guitars with drums.

Garage rock is a raw and energetic style of rock and roll that flourished in the mid-1960s, most notably in the United States and Canada, and has experienced various revivals since then. The style is characterized by basic chord structures played on electric guitars and other instruments, sometimes distorted through a fuzzbox, as well as often unsophisticated and occasionally aggressive lyrics and delivery. Its name derives from the perception that groups were often made up of young amateurs who rehearsed in the family garage, although many were professional.

Portland, Oregon City in Oregon, United States

Portland is the largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. As of 2017, Portland had an estimated population of 647,805, making it the 26th-largest city in the United States, and the second-most populous in the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 2.4 million people live in the Portland metropolitan statistical area (MSA), making it the 25th most populous MSA in the United States. Its Combined Statistical Area (CSA) ranks 18th-largest with a population of around 3.2 million. Approximately 60% of Oregon's population resides within the Portland metropolitan area.


Early years

In 1959, Lynn Easton invited Jack Ely to play with him at a Portland Hotel gig, with Ely singing and playing guitar and Easton on the drum kit. [2] The two teenagers grew up together, as their parents were close friends. [2] Easton and Ely performed at yacht club parties, and soon added Mike Mitchell on guitar and Bob Nordby on bass to round out the band. They called themselves the Kingsmen, taking the name from a recently disbanded group. [3] The Kingsmen began their collective career playing at fashion shows, Red Cross events, and supermarket promotions, generally avoiding rock songs on their setlist. [4]

Jack Ely American guitarist and singer

Jack Brown Ely was an American guitarist and singer, best known for singing the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie". Classically trained in piano, he began playing guitar after seeing Elvis Presley on television. In 1959, he co-founded the Kingsmen and with them recorded "Louie Louie" in 1963; Ely's famously incoherent vocals were partly the result of his braces and the rudimentary recording method. Before the record became a hit Ely was forced out of the group and began playing with his new band, the Courtmen. Ely died in Terrebonne, Oregon, on April 28, 2015 at age 71.

Drum kit collection of drums and other percussion instruments

A drum kit — also called a drum set, trap set, or simply drums — is a collection of drums and other percussion instruments, typically cymbals, which are set up on stands to be played by a single player, with drumsticks held in both hands, and the feet operating pedals that control the hi-hat cymbal and the beater for the bass drum. A drum kit consists of a mix of drums and idiophones – most significantly cymbals, but can also include the woodblock and cowbell. In the 2000s, some kits also include electronic instruments. Also, both hybrid and entirely electronic kits are used.

"Louie Louie"

In 1962, while playing a gig at the Pypo Club in Seaside, Oregon, then managed by Al Dardis, the band noticed Rockin' Robin Roberts's version of "Louie Louie" being played on the jukebox for hours on end. The entire club would get up and dance. [5] Ely convinced the Kingsmen to learn the song, which they played at dances to a great crowd response. [6] Unknown to him, he changed the beat because he misheard it on a jukebox. [7] Ken Chase, host of radio station KISN, formed his own club to capitalize on these dance crazes. [8] Dubbed the "Chase", the Kingsmen became the club's house band and Ken Chase became the band's manager. On April 5, 1963, Chase booked the band an hour-long session at the local Northwestern Inc. studio for the following day. [9] The band had just played a 90-minute "Louie Louie" marathon. [10]

Seaside, Oregon City in Oregon, United States

Seaside is a city in Clatsop County, Oregon, United States. The name Seaside is derived from Seaside House, a historic summer resort built in the 1870s by railroad magnate Ben Holladay. The city's population was 6,457 at the 2010 census.

Lawrence Fewell Roberts II, known as Robin Roberts and in his music career as "Rockin' Robin" Roberts, was an American singer best known for his performances in the early 1960s with The Wailers, a rock and roll band based in Tacoma, Washington. His best known record was the earliest cover version of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie", recorded in 1960 and released the following year.

Louie Louie single

"Louie Louie" is an American rhythm and blues song written and composed by Richard Berry in 1955 and best known for the 1963 hit version by The Kingsmen. It has become a standard in pop and rock, with hundreds of versions recorded by different artists. The song is based on the tune "El Loco Cha Cha” popularized by bandleader René Touzet and is an example of Latin influence on American popular music.

Despite the band's annoyance at having so little time to prepare, on April 6 at 10 am the Kingsmen walked into the three-microphone recording studio. In order to sound like a live performance, Ely was forced to lean back and sing to a microphone suspended from the ceiling. "It was more yelling than singing," Ely said, "'cause I was trying to be heard over all the instruments." [9] In addition, he was wearing braces at the time of the performance, further compounding his infamously slurred words. [11] Ely sang the beginning of the third verse several bars too early, but realized his mistake and waited for the rest of the band to catch up. In what was thought to be a warm-up, the song was recorded in its first and only take. The Kingsmen were not proud of the version, but their manager liked the rawness of their cover. [12] The B-side was "Haunted Castle", composed by Ely and Don Gallucci, the new keyboardist. [13] However, Lynn Easton was credited on both the Jerden and Wand releases. The entire session cost $50, and the band split the cost. [12]

Dental braces

Dental braces are devices used in orthodontics that align and straighten teeth and help position them with regard to a person's bite, while also aiming to improve dental health. Braces also fix gaps. They are often used to correct underbites, as well as malocclusions, overbites, open bites, deep bites, cross bites, crooked teeth, and various other flaws of the teeth and jaw. Braces can be either cosmetic or structural. Dental braces are often used in conjunction with other orthodontic appliances to help widen the palate or jaws and to otherwise assist in shaping the teeth and jaws.

Jerden Records

Jerden Records was an independent record label which operated from May 1960 through April 1971.

Wand Records was started by Florence Greenberg in 1961 as a subsidiary of Scepter Records. Artists on Wand Records included The Isley Brothers, The Kingsmen, Mel Wynn & the Rhythm Aces, Chuck Jackson, and the Monzas.

"Louie Louie" was kept from the top spot on the charts in late 1963 and early 1964 by the Singing Nun and Bobby Vinton, who monopolized the No. 1 slot for four weeks apiece. The Kingsmen single reached No. 1 on the Cashbox chart and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Additionally it reached No. 1 on the CHUM Canada chart and in the UK it reached No. 26 on the Record Retailer chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. [14] Wand issued a re-release in 1966 as "Louie Louie 64-65-66" and it re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 97.

The Singing Nun Nun, singer, musician

Jeanne-Paule Marie "Jeannine" Deckers, better known as Sœur Sourire, was a Belgian singer-songwriter and for seven years a member of the Dominican Order in Belgium as Sister Luc-Gabrielle. She acquired world fame in 1963 with the release of the Belgian French song "Dominique", which topped the US Billboard Hot 100 and other charts.

Bobby Vinton American singer

Stanley Robert Vinton, Jr., known professionally as Bobby Vinton, is an American singer and songwriter, who also briefly appeared in films. In pop music circles, he became known as "The Polish Prince", as his music pays tribute to his Polish heritage. Known for his angelic vocals in love songs, his most popular song, "Blue Velvet", reached No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, and made No.2 in the UK in 1990. It also served as inspiration for the film of the same name.

Cashbox is a music industry trade magazine iconic brand. Originally published weekly from July 1942 to November 1996. Ten years after its dissolution, it was revived as Cashbox Magazine, an online-only weekly chart that occasionally publishes special print issues.

The band attracted nationwide attention when "Louie Louie" was banned by the governor of Indiana, Matthew E. Welsh, also attracting the attention of the FBI because of alleged indecent lyrics in their version of the song. The lyrics were, in fact, innocent, but Ely's baffling enunciation permitted teenage fans and concerned parents alike to imagine the most scandalous obscenities. All of this attention only made the song more popular. In April 1966 "Louie Louie" was reissued and once again hit the music charts, reaching No. 65 on the Cashbox chart and No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Governor of Indiana head of state and of government of the U.S. state of Indiana

The Governor of Indiana is the chief executive of the state of Indiana. The governor is elected to a four-year term, and responsible for overseeing the day-to-day management of the functions of many agencies of the Indiana state government. The governor also shares power with other statewide executive officers, who manage other state government agencies. The governor works out of the Indiana Statehouse and holds official functions at the Indiana Governor's Residence in the state capital of Indianapolis.

Matthew E. Welsh Governor of Indiana

Matthew Empson Welsh was the 41st Governor of Indiana and a member of the Democratic Party, serving from 1961 to 1965. His term as governor saw a major increase in statewide taxation, including the first state sales tax, and the passage of several important civil rights bills, making Indiana one of the most friendly states to ethnic and religious minorities at that time. His tax hikes led to a near tax revolt in the state, and people began writing "Indiana—Land of Taxes" on their license plates, at entry points into the state, in stores, and other public places. The situation killed any chance he had seeking higher office and earned him the moniker "Sales Tax Matt". Despite numerous reforms and his popularity within the Democratic Party, he was defeated in a decisive when he ran for governor again in 1972. After leaving office, he served as chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, as a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1964 until 1968, and as a federal commissioner on the International Joint Commission from 1966 until 1970. Throughout his life, Welsh was known for his personal motto, "It doesn't cost you anything to be a gentleman." After his retirement in 1972, he returned to Indianapolis, where he remained until his death in 1995.

In 1985, Ross Shafer, host and a writer-performer of the late-night comedy series Almost Live! on the Seattle TV station KING, spearheaded an effort to have "Louie Louie" replace "Washington, My Home" by Helen Davis as Washington's official state song. [15] Picking up on this initially prankish effort, Whatcom County Councilman Craig Cole introduced Resolution No. 85-12 in the state legislature, citing the need for a "contemporary theme song that can be used to engender a sense of pride and community, and in the enhancement of tourism and economic development". His resolution also called for the creation of a new "Louie Louie County". While the House did not pass it, the Senate's Resolution 1985-37 declared April 12, 1985, "Louie Louie Day". A crowd of 4,000, estimated by press reports, convened at the state capitol that day for speeches, singalongs, and performances by the Wailers, the Kingsmen, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Two days later, a Seattle event commemorated the occasion with the premiere performance of a new, Washington-centric version of the song written by composer Berry. [16] [17]

Over the years the Kingsmen's version of "Louie Louie" has been recognized by organizations and publications worldwide for its influence on the history of rock and roll. Rankings and recognition in major publications and surveys are shown in the table below.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Hall of Fame Singles2018 None
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll1995 None
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Hall of Fame 1999 None
National Public Radio The 300 Most Important American Records of the 20th Century1999 None
The Wire Magazine The 100 Most Important Records Ever Made1992 None
Mojo Magazine Ultimate Jukebox: The 100 Singles You Must Own2003#1
Paste Magazine The 50 Best Garage Rock Songs of All Time2014# 3
Rolling Stone 40 Songs That Changed The World2007#5
All Time Top 1000 Albums , Colin Larkin The All-Time Top 100 Singles2000#6
VH1 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll2007#11
The Heart of Rock and Soul, Dave Marsh The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made1989#11
Rolling Stone The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years1989#18
VH1 100 Greatest Dance Songs2000#27
Mojo Magazine 100 Greatest Singles of All Time1997#51
Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time 2004#54
NEA and RIAA Songs of the Century 1999#57
Mojo Magazine Big Bangs: 100 Records That Changed The World2007#70
Pitchfork Magazine The 200 Best Songs of the 1960s2006#154
NME Magazine The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time2014#157
WCBS-FM Top 1001 Songs of the Century2005#184

The Kingsmen name and history

The Kingsmen in 1966. Clockwise from lower left: Lynn Easton, J.C. Rieck, Kerry Magness, Mike Mitchell, Dick Peterson The Kingsmen 1966.jpg
The Kingsmen in 1966. Clockwise from lower left: Lynn Easton, J.C. Rieck, Kerry Magness, Mike Mitchell, Dick Peterson

Before the success of "Louie Louie", the members of the Kingsmen took varied paths. Easton, whose mother had registered the name of the group and therefore owned it, declared that from this point on he intended to be the singer, forcing Ely to play the drums. This led Jack Ely and Bob Nordby to quit the group in 1963.

Don Gallucci was forced out because he wasn't old enough to tour and later formed Don and the Goodtimes, which morphed into the short-lived Touch. Later, Gallucci became a record producer with Elektra Records, with his most famous production being the Stooges' seminal second album Fun House . ("Louie Louie" was frequently performed at Stooges concerts; the song appears on their live album as well as an Iggy Pop solo record.)

The two remaining original Kingsmen, Lynn Easton and Mike Mitchell, were joined by Dick Peterson, Barry Curtis and Norm Sundholm to record and tour as the official band. This line-up stayed intact from late 1963 into 1966 and charted multiple singles and albums with Easton as the principal vocalist.

After Ely's departure and considerable chart success by the new line-up, the group learned that he was performing with another group as The Kingsmen. [18] Following legal action, a settlement was reached and Easton, Mitchell, Peterson, Curtis and Sundholm established their rights to the "Kingsmen" name. Thus, Ely was forced to stop using the name, Easton was forced to stop lip syncing to Ely's vocals, and subsequent releases of "Louie Louie" were required to have the text "Lead vocal by Jack Ely" below the title. Unable to perform using the Kingsmen name, Ely continued with his groups the Squires and the Courtmen. He also received a gold record for "Louie Louie" as part of the settlement. [19]

The Kingsmen's 1964 follow up to "Louie Louie" was a party version of "Money (That's What I Want)" which hit the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 16 and on Cashbox at No. 17. Then came "Little Latin Lupe Lu" peaking on Billboard at No. 46 and Cashbox at No. 49. After that it was "Death of An Angel" No. 33 on Cashbox and No. 42 on Billboard.

1965 saw the Kingsmen return to the Top 10 nationally with "The Jolly Green Giant" reaching No. 4 on Billboard and No. 8 on Cashbox. The novelty number also made No. 25 on the Billboard R&B chart and hit No. 1 on the RPM Canada chart. The follow-up song was "The Climb" No. 45 on Cashbox and No. 65 on Billboard. "Annie Fanny" was released next reaching No. 43 on Cashbox & No. 47 on Billboard. Next came "(You Got) The Gamma Goochee", No. 98 on Cashbox & No. 122 on Billboard. The group also appeared in the beach party movie How To Stuff A Wild Bikini singing "Give Her Lovin'". Their recording of the title song was also on the soundtrack album.

In 1966 the Kingsmen continued to hit the charts, with "Killer Joe" reaching No. 77 on Billboard & No. 81 on Cashbox. In 1967 they made the chart for the last time with "Bo Diddley Bach" reaching No. 128 on Billboard. In total the Kingsmen charted 11 single releases from 1963 to 1968 and five consecutive albums from 1963 to 1966.

On November 9, 1998, the Kingsmen were awarded ownership of all their early recordings released on Wand Records from Gusto Records, including "Louie Louie". They had not been paid royalties on the songs since the 1960s. [20]

Other uses of the name

Prior to this group's formation, another group called The Kingsmen operated in 1958 and was made up of members of Bill Haley & His Comets who were moonlighting from their regular work with Haley. This group scored a hit record (#35) on Billboard with the instrumental entitled "Week End", written by Rudy Pompilli, Franny Beecher, and Billy Williamson, backed with "Better Believe It" as the B side. They released a follow-up single on East West Records featuring "The Catwalk" backed with "Conga Rock". Although the Comets did the actual recordings, when the Kingsmen went on tour a different set of musicians performed instead of Haley's people. The band made at least one appearance on American Bandstand in 1958.

Many other groups have used the name "The Kingsmen", including a gospel vocal group formed in 1956 (also referred to as The Kingsmen Quartet), and bands that were later renamed as Flamin' Groovies, The Gants and The Statler Brothers. An a cappella group at Columbia University is traditionally known as the Kingsmen; one incarnation of that group became Sha Na Na.

In late 1968 with the original group on a recording and touring hiatus, the Kingsmen's management team, believing they owned the rights to the name, worked with the Jerry Kasenetz-Jeffry Katz production organization and studio musicians to release a single on the Earth label ("Feed Me"/"Just A 'B' Side"). [21] A separate group was formed with new members (including lead singer Yank Barry) to tour on the East Coast until disbanding after a cease and desist order was filed by the original group. [22] [23]


Current Members

Former Members


The Kingsmen


U.S. singles and albums, plus major compilation releases.


Original release Jerden 712 Label.jpeg
Original release

Listed in chronological release order with peak chart position (Billboard Hot 100) noted.


Listed in chronological order with peak chart position (Billboard) noted.

Appearances (60s releases)

Compilation albums

Further reading

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  1. Yank Barry was the lead singer for a separate Kingsmen group in the late 60s. More details in "Other uses of the name" section. He is listed at as an honorary Kingsmen member. In 2014 he was invited to sing with the band at a concert in Florida.
  2. 1 2 Marsh 1993, p. 85
  3. Marsh 1993, p. 86
  4. Marsh 1993, p. 87
  5. Blecha 2009, p. 134
  6. Blecha 2009, p. 135
  7. Marsh 1993, p. 83
  8. Blecha 2009, p. 136
  9. 1 2 Blecha 2009, p. 137
  10. Marsh 1993, p. 88
  11. Hayes, Ron (August 13, 1993). "Rock's Rumored Dirtiest Song Turns 30". Lewiston Morning Tribune . Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  12. 1 2 Blecha 2009, p. 138
  13. Blecha 2009, p. 136.
  14. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 161. ISBN   0-214-20512-6.
  15. Seattle Weekly (October 27, 1999) Music: "The State I'm In" Archived 2006-08-21 at the Wayback Machine , by Kurt B. Reighley
  16. The Bellingham Herald (February 20, 2006): "What Would You Pick as State Vegetable?" [ permanent dead link ], by Dean Kahn
  17. Liner notes, The Best Of Louie Louie Volume 2 (Rhino R1 70515), by Doc Pelzell
  18. Peterson 2005, p. 325.
  19. Peterson 2005, p. 327.
  20. "". Archived from the original on 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2006-10-10.
  21. Released on Earth 104. Lead singers were C.L. Weldon on "Feed Me" and Joey Levine on "Just A 'B' Side".
  22. "Kingsmen web site historical page". Archived from the original on March 16, 2011. Retrieved 2014-05-29.
  23. O'Connor, Joe (2012-04-15). "The world according to Yank: Montrealer with checkered past gets Nobel nod, or does he?". The National Post. Retrieved 2017-01-21.