The Kingsmen were a 1960s garage rock / frat rock band from Portland, Oregon. They are best known for their 1963 recording of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie", which held the #2 spot on the Billboard charts for six weeks. The single has become an enduring classic.
When recorded the band members were Jack Ely (vocalist/rhythm guitar), Lynn Easton (drummer), Mike Mitchell (guitar), Don Gallucci (piano) and Bob Nordby (bass guitar). Ken Chase (Kingsmen manager and Portland radio station KISN music director) produced the recording session. Robert Lindahl (Northwestern Inc. recording studio owner) was the audio engineer.
"Louie Louie" was kept from the top spot on the charts in late 1963 and early 1964 by The Singing Nun and Bobby Vinton, who monopolized the #1 slot for four weeks apiece. The Kingsmen single reached #1 on the Cashbox chart and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Additionally in the UK it reached #26 on the Record Retailer chart. World wide sales were reported to be over one million copies sold. Although today, the record seems like pop or hard rock, its R&B appeal was immense. The record made #1 on the Cashbox R&B chart. (Billboard did not print R&B charts from late november 1963 through mid-january 1965.) The b-side of the single features an instrumental called "Haunted Castle".
The band attracted nationwide attention when "Louie Louie" was banned by the governor of Indiana, 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 teenage fans and concerned parents alike to imagine the most scandalous obscenities. All of this attention only made the song more popular. In April 1966 The Kingsmen reissued "Louie Louie" and the song once again hit the music charts reaching #65 on the Cashbox chart and #97 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
After the success of "Louie Louie", the members of the Kingsmen took varied paths. Easton, whose mother had registered the name of the group and therefore owned it, declared that from this point on he intended to be the singer, forcing Ely to play the drums. This led Jack Ely and Bob Nordby to quit the group.
Ely would later form his own "Jack Ely & the Kingsmen". Don Gallucci was forced out because he wasn't old enough to tour and later formed Don and the Goodtimes, which morphed into the short-lived Touch. Later, Gallucci would become a record producer with Elektra Records, with his most famous production being The Stooges' seminal second album Fun House. ("Louie Louie" was frequently performed at Stooges concerts; the song appears on their live album as well as an Iggy Pop solo record.) The two remaining original Kingsmen, Lynn Easton and Mike Mitchell, toured as the official band.
Following legal action on both sides, Easton established his right to the "Kingsmen" name. Thus Ely was forced to stop using it, and Easton was forced to stop lip syncing to Ely's vocals. This initially hurt the Easton Kingsmen's popularity, after audiences realized that this was no longer the band they had come to see. Eventually, though, the official band (with Easton on vocals) charted several more singles in the 1960s.
The Kingsmen 1964 follow up to "Louie Louie" was a party version of "Money (That's What I Want)" which hit the Billboard Hot 100 at #16 and on Cashbox at #17. Then came "Little Latin Lupe Lu" peaking on Billboard at #46 and Cashbox at #49. After that it was "Death of An Angel" #33 on Cashbox and #42 on Billboard.
1965 saw The Kingsmen return to the Top 10 nationally with "The Jolly Green Giant" reaching #4 on Billboard and #8 on Cashbox. The follow up song was "The Climb" #45 on Cashbox and #65 on Billboard. "Annie Fanny" was released next reaching #43 on Cashbox & #47 on Billboard. Next came "(You Got) The Gamma Goochee" #98 on Cashbox & #122 on Billboard.
In 1966 The Kingsmen continued to hit the charts with "Killer Joe" reaching #77 on Billboard & #81 on Cashbox. In 1967 The Kingsmen hit the chart for the last time with "Bo Diddley Bach" reaching #128 on Billboard.
On November 9, 1998, The Kingsmen were awarded ownership of all their early recordings released on Wand Records from Gusto Records, including "Louie Louie." They had not been paid royalties on the songs since the 1960s.
Prior to this group's formation, another group called The Kingsmen operated in 1958 and was made up of members of Bill Haley & His Comets who were moonlighting from their regular work with Haley. This group scored a hit record (#35) with the instrumental entitled "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 "The Kingsmen", including a gospel vocal group and bands that were later re-named as Flamin' Groovies, The Gants and the well-known and highly successful country music group, The Statler Brothers. An a cappella group at Columbia University is traditionally known as The Kingsmen; one incarnation of that group became Sha Na Na.
* The Kingsmen In Person (Wand WDM/WDS-657) 1963 (#20)
* The Kingsmen, Volume II (Wand WDM/WDS-659) 1964 (#15)
* The Kingsmen, Volume 3 (Wand WDM/WDS-662) 1965 (#22)
* The Kingsmen on Campus (Wand WDM/WDS-670) 1965 (#68)
* 15 Great Hits (Wand WDM/WDS-674) 1966 (#87)
* Up and Away (Wand WDM/WDS-675) 1966
* The Kingsmen - Greatest Hits (Wand WDM/WDS-681) 1966
* The Kingsmen – A Quarter To Three (Picc-A-Dilly PIC-3329) 1980
* The Kingsmen - Ya Ya (Picc-A-Dilly PIC-3330) 1980
* The Kingsmen - House Party (Picc-A-Dilly PIC-3346) 1980
* The Kingsmen - Greatest Hits (Picc-A-Dilly PIC-3348) 1981
* Live and Unreleased (Jerden 7004) recorded 1963, released 1992
* Since We’ve Been Gone (Sundazed 6027) recorded 1967, released 1994
* The Kingsmen – Plugged (Kingsmen CD #1) 1995
* Garage Sale (Louie Louie Records – no catalog #) 2003
* The Best of the Kingsmen (Scepter/Citation Series CTN-18002) 1972
* The Best of the Kingsmen (Rhino RNLP 126) 1985
* Rock & Roll – Kingsmen (Starday N5-2125) 1985
* Louie Louie – The Kingsmen (Prime Cuts 1322) 1986
* The Kingsmen – 12 Greatest (Golden Circle CS 57582) 198?
* The Kingsmen – Louie, Louie (Golden Circle GC57881) 1987
* The Jolly Green Giant (Richmond 2125) 1988
* The Kingsmen – Louie Louie (Highland Music/Richmond 2138) 1988
* The Best of the Kingsmen (Rhino 70745) 1989
* The Kingsmen – Louie Louie and More Golden Classics (Collectables 5073) 1991
* The Kingsmen – 20 Greats (Highland Music/Festival FST FCD 4417) 1991
* The World of the Kingsmen/Louie Louie (Trace 0400612) 1992
* The Best of the Kingsmen (Laserlight/Delta 124 24) 1995
* The Very Best of the Kingsmen (Varese Sarabande/Varese Vintage 5905) 1998
* The Kingsmen’s Greatest Hits (K-tel K4185-2) 1998
* Louie Louie: The Very Best of the Kingsmen (Collectables 5628) 1999
* The Kingsmen – America’s Premier 60s Garage Band (Edel America 70172) 2000