"Louie Louie" Singer Jack Ely Dies at 71
Published Apr 29, 2015The voice of "Louie Louie" has died, as the Kingsmen's former singer Jack Ely passed away on Tuesday (April 28) at his home in Redmond, OR. He was 71.
He had been suffering from an unknown illness. "Because of his religious beliefs, we're not even sure what [the illness] was," his son Sean told the Associated Press.
Ely (photographed above second from the left) co-founded the Kingsmen in 1959 as a singer and guitarist. In 1963, the Portland band covered Richard Berry's 1955 song "Louie Louie," and this went on to become the definitive version of the song. The session reportedly cost $36.
Famously, Ely's shouted vocals were incoherent, and this prompted an inconclusive FBI investigation about the song's supposed obscenity. According to legend, he had to tilt his head back and shout to be heard over the guitars and drums; this, combined with the fact that he was wearing braces at the time, resulted in the indiscernible lyrics.
Ely left the group before "Louie Louie" became a hit and he never found musical success again. He went on to train horses in central Oregon.