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Kingsmen Biography

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The Kingsmen were a 1960s garage rock band from Portland, Oregon. They are best known (almost to the point of infamy) for their 1963 recording of Richard Berry's "Louie, Louie", which was a US #2 chart hit in the influential Billboard charts and has become an enduring classic (The record actually reached #1 in the less popular rival Cashbox charts, a situation that many, including those involved in the recording, have attributed to Billboard's reluctance to have 'Poor quality' music at number 1).

The group members at the time of the recording were vocalist/rhythm guitarist Jack Ely, drummer Lynn Easton, guitarist Mike Mitchell, pianist Don Gallucci, and bassist Bob Nordby. Ken Chase, the band's manager and music director at KISN, Portland, was producer of the session, and Bob Lindahl would have been the engineer had Chase not locked him out of the soundbooth following a disagreement over how to get the sound of the band playing live in Chase's club 'The Chase', where the Kingsmen were the house band. The b-side of the single features a sax-led instrumental called 'Haunted house'. The band, however, deny ever having had a sax player. Rumours abound that they did have a sax player who was unable to attend the recording because his mother wouldn't let him out, and later, after becoming the group's vocalist, Easton took up the sax for little while, but at this moment the mystery sax player remains unidentified.

After the success of "Louie, Louie", the members of the Kingsmen took varied paths: Jack Ely and Bob Nordby quit the group after Easton, whose mother had registered the name of the group and therefore 'Owned' it, declared that from this point on he was going to be the singer and Ely was going to play the drums. Ely would later form his own 'Jack Ely & the Kingsmen' band. Lynn Easton and Mike Mitchell remained with the official band. Don Gallucci was forced out because he wasn't old enough to tour and later formed Don and the Goodtimes which morphed into the highly influential, but short-lived Touch. Later, Galucci would become a record producer with Elektra Records, with his most famous production being The Stooges' seminal second album Fun House. Easton eventually established his right to the Kingsmen name, Ely was forced to stop using it and Easton was forced to stop miming to Ely's vocals. After initially suffering falling audience numbers as fans realised that this was no longer the band they had come to see, the official band (with Easton on vocals) had several hits in the 1960s with party versions of "Money (That's What I Want)", "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and "The Jolly Green Giant".

The band attracted nationwide attention when "Louie, Louie" was banned by the Indiana governor Matthew E. Welsh and attracted the attention of the FBI because of alleged indecent lyrics in the Kingsmen's version of the song. The lyrics were in fact innocuous, but Ely's baffling enunciation permitted teenaged fans and concerned parents alike to imagine the most scandalous obscenities. All this attention only made the song more popular.

On November 9, 1998 The Kingsmen were awarded ownership of all their early recordings, including Louie Louie, after having been paid no royalties for them since the 60s. [1]

Prior to this group's formation, another group called The Kingsmen operated in 1958 and was made up of members of Bill Haley & the Comets who were moonlighting from their regular work with Haley. This group scored a hit record with the instrumental "Weekend". 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 title of "The Kingsmen", including a gospel vocal group, and bands that were later re-named as The Statler Brothers, Flamin' Groovies, and The Gants. An a cappella group at Columbia University is traditionally known as The Kingsmen; one incarnation of that group became Sha Na Na.
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