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A rock & roll band from Portland, OR, the Kingsmen's one big hit, "Louie, Louie," defined the garage band style and became one of the all-time classics. The original lineup included Jack Ely (lead singer and guitar), Lynn Easton (drums), Mike Mitchell (lead guitar), Bob Nordby (bass), and Don Galucci (piano). After Ely had "incorrectly" taught the rest of the band the Wailers version of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie" (thus altering the basic rhythm into the now famous duh-duh-duh, duh-duh, duh-duh-duh, duh-duh riff that has become the only way anyone has played it since), they recorded it for fifty dollars at a primitive local recording studio with only three mikes, Ely hollering the lyrics into an overhead boom mike suspended ten feet in the air. Released on a local label, the record went nowhere after Paul Revere & the Raiders quickly covered it in the Northwest market, although it had quickly become a standard for all teen bands in that area. In 1964, the record started to break nationally, causing the breakup of the original lineup when Easton copyrighted the group's name, informing the other members that he was now sole owner of the Kingsmen and its new lead singer. Ely formed his own Kingsmen, touring at the same time as Easton, who was lip-synching the record whenever possible. Only Easton and Mitchell were left from the original lineup, but they kept scoring big with frat-band versions of "Money" and "Little Latin Lupe Lu," reaching their peak with "The Jolly Green Giant," while Ely languished in relative obscurity and Gallucci formed Don & the Goodtimes. By the early '90s, history had redressed itself somewhat. While replacement members from the Easton version of the band toured as the "original" Kingsmen, Jack Ely finally received some of his due, headlining the 30th Anniversary Louie Louie tour. Though the song itself has been covered repeatedly, the version by Ely and the original lineup remains definitive.
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.
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. The two teenagers grew up together, as their parents were close friends. Easton and Ely performed at yacht club parties, and soon added Mike Mitchell on guitar and Bob Nordby on bass to round out a band. They called themselves The Kingsmen, taking the name from a recently disbanded group. The Kingsmen began their collective career playing at fashion shows, Red Cross events, and supermarket promotions, generally avoiding rock songs on their setlist.
"Louie Louie" 
In 1962, while playing a gig at the Pypo Club in Seaside, Oregon, 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. Ely convinced the Kingsmen to learn the song, which they played at dances to a great crowd response. Unknown to him, he changed the beat because he misheard it on a jukebox. Ken Chase, host of radio station KISN, formed his own club to capitalize on these dance crazes. 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. The band had just played a 90-minute "Louie Louie" marathon.
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." In addition, he was wearing braces at the time of the performance, further compounding his infamously slurred words. 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. The B-side was "Haunted Castle", composed by Ely and Don Gallucci, the new keyboardist. However, Lynn Easton was credited on both the Jerden and Wand releases. The entire session cost $50, and the band split the difference.
"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 in the UK it reached No. 26 on the Record Retailer chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
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.
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.
The Kingsmen name and history 
After 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.
Ely would later form his own "Jack Ely & the Courtmen". 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 would become 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, toured as the official band.
Following legal action on both sides, Easton established his right to the "Kingsmen" name. Thus Ely was forced to stop using it, and Easton was forced to stop lip syncing to Ely's vocals. This initially hurt the Easton Kingsmen's popularity, after audiences realized that this was no longer the band they had come to see. Eventually, though, the official band (with Easton on vocals) charted several more singles in the 1960s.
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 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.
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.
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.
Various 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; also circa 1962-63, Bruza / Magnoli / Nofz / Tomczyk adopted that name in SE MI until dis-banding during the late-1970s.