Friday, May 01, 2015

The Kingsmen's Jack Ely Has Died At Age 71

Jack Ely sang the lead vocal on one of Rock's all time greatest hits, Louie Louie. He would later insist that as a 19-year-old singing “Louie Louie” in one take in a Portland, Ore., studio in 1963, he had followed the original lyrics faithfully. But, he admitted, the braces on his teeth had just been tightened, and he was howling to be heard over the band, with his head tilted awkwardly at a 45-degree angle at a single microphone dangling from the ceiling to simulate a live concert.
Which may explain why what originated innocently as a lovesick sailor’s calypso lament to a bartender named Louie morphed into the incoherent, three-chord garage-band cult classic by the Kingsmen that sold millions of copies, spawned countless cover versions and variations, was banned in Indiana, prompted the F.B.I. to investigate whether the song was secretly obscene, provoked a legal battle and became what Frank Zappa called “an archetypal American musical icon.”

For Mr. Ely, the 2-minute-42-second demo recording turned out to be a one-hit wonder. He was bounced from the group, which he helped found in 1959, after the drummer, Lynn Easton, decided he wanted to be the lead singer instead.

Mr. Ely died on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 71 at his home in Redmond, Ore. His son Sean said that Mr. Ely was a Christian Scientist and had not sought treatment, but that he believed the cause was skin cancer.