Jack Ely, Sang “Louie Louie” for The Kingsmen

Jack Ely (September 11, 1943-April 28, 2015) is an example of not one, but several rock archetypes. First, he was a “one-hit wonder,” doomed (or blessed) to perform “Louie Louie” from his teens until well into his final years. Second, he was accused of concealing secret meanings into his recordings (Think of The Beatles “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory or alleged Satanic messages in “Stairway to Heaven.”) Finally, he is an example of the spurned band member, joining the likes of Pete Best (The Beatles), Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones) and Dave Mustain (Metallica).

“Louie Louie” ranks #54 in the Rolling Stone “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” According to the magazine, it cost only $52 to record, which accounts for the poor quality of the audio–and the indecipherable lyrics believed by many at the time to be pornographic. (Decide for yourself by listening to the :54 mark in the song.) That rumor helped propel the song to #2 on the charts and led to a 455-page report by the FBI that concluded, well, nothing.

Ely and the band clashed, and he left the group before the song took off. Yet it seems his name is most often connected with the hit. In the final reckoning, was “Louie Louie” a blessing or a curse? Only Ely could have answered for sure.