Sad news came out of Redmon, Oregon this morning. Jack Ely, better known as the frontman for the band Kingsmen, has passed away at the age of 71. Jack was born on September 11th, 1943. His band Kingsmen was most known for their song “Louie Louie”
Jack Ely was born in the Fall of 1943 in Portland, Oregon. Music was in his blood seeing as both of his parents were music majors at the University of Oregon, and his father, Ken, was also a singer. Jack Ely was a self-taught guitarist, learning to play guitar riffs by ear. He would become part of the Young Oregonians, a traveling show where Ely would earn his chops. The Kingsmen were formed while Jack Ely was attending Washington High School. Lynn Easton’s mother invited Jack Ely to sing and play guitar at a hotel gig in the area. Easton would become the Kingsmen’s drum, and Mike Mitchell, and Bob Nordby would join later to form the remainder of the band.
The song “Louie Louie” was recorded in 1963 with a live band, and a mic hanging three feet above his head, which cause for some muddiness in the vocals. The muddiness in the vocals was exacerbated by the fact that Ely had braces at the time of the recording. Jack Ely and the Kingsmen did not last long. Ely was forced out of the group before “Louie Louie” gained national popularity, but Jack found another band under the title of Courtsmen, and continued to perform the song.
Jack Ely would begin touring with the new band in 1966. Two singles were released through Bang Records, “Louie Louie66”, and “Ride Ride Baby.” Neither of these songs charted, and “Louie Louie” would hold to be the biggest song of Jack’s career. Jack Ely was conscripted into the Army for the Vietnam war. Upon his return from Vietnam in 1968, Jack Ely struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. He managed to turn himself around, and became an advocate for Rockers Against Drugs. Jack would also become a huge performance rights activist. He felt that artists, even one hit wonders, deserved compensation for their work and their artistic footprint that had been left on music’s landscape.
This morning Jack Ely was pronounced dead at his farm in Oregon. Ely was suffering from an undiagnosed illness. The disease went undiagnosed due to Jack Ely’s religious views. Jack is survived by his two sons. His contribution to music is deeply appreciated, and he will be missed. Condolences to the Ely family. Rest In Peace Jack Ely. September 11th, 1943 – April 27th, 2015