Kingsmen, The, the ultimate garage band from the Pacific Northwest (f. 1958). membership: Lynn Easton, voc; Jack Ely, gtr., voc. (b. Portland, Ore., Sept. 11, 1943); Mike Mitchell, lead gtr.; Bob Nordby, gtr., bs.; Don Gallucci, kybd.; Garry Abbott, drm.; Norm Sund-holm, bs.
One of the dozens of bands to rise out of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1960s, The Kingsmen created one of rock’s most enduring records almost by accident. They started playing wherever they could get gigs in the competitive atmosphere fueled by peers like Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Wailers, among many others. Those two bands had already cut covers of Richard Berry’s 1956 tune “Louie Louie” The Kingsmen cut it in hope of getting a job on a cruise ship. While the ship line rejected it, a local record company saw fit to press some up. While the Raider’s version (released around the same time) eclipsed the Kingsmen’s locally, a copy made its way to Boston where it started to break out throughout the East Coast. Because the recording was crude and the vocals were pretty garbled, controversy arose as to exactly what they were singing. The controversy begot record sales and the single climbed to #2, where it sat for six weeks. Millions of college-age males imagined that the song had something to do with sex, and even the FBI opened an investigation to see what—if anything—the song meant. Despite decades of listening, no one is quite sure, although Berry insists that his lyrics were just a simple romantic love song. On the strength of “Louie Louie,” the album The Kingsmen in Person went to #20. A live version of “Money” hit #16. The album Volume II went to #15.
The band toured extensively, breaking attendance records at colleges and ballrooms. Their song “Jolly Green Giant” rose to #4 and the album Volume III rose to #22. That was their last hit. By 1968, they agreed to sign away their rights to “Louie Louie” for a percentage of future licensing fees and profits. Having never seen any of this money, they sued the company and won, recouping their back royalties. The song further became fodder for an entire book by critic and journalist Dave Marsh. The band continues to be a live attraction over 40 years after forming. Three of the members have been playing together since 1963.
The Kingsmen in Person (1963); The Kingsmen, Vol. 2 (1964); How to Stuffa Wild Bikini (original soundtrack; 1965); The Kingsmen on Campus (1965); The Kingsmen, Vol. 3 (1965); Up and Away (1966); Louie Louie (1986); Live & Unreleased (1992); Since We’ve Been Gone (live; 1994); Jolly Green Giant (1996).