September 11, 1943 – April 27, 2015
Jack Ely was an American singer and musician who is most famously remembered as the lead vocalist on the Kingsmen‘s classic garage anthem, “Louie Louie.” Born in Portland, Oregon, Ely was classically trained on the piano at an early age, but switched to the guitar after seeing Elvis Presley on TV. He co-founded the Kingsmen in 1959, and after spending the next few years playing local fashion shows and such, he and the band recorded “Louie Louie,” which went on to become one of the most influential, if not easiest to play, rock and roll songs of all time. It reportedly cost just $36 to record. After leaving the group shortly after the release, Ely formed a new band, the Courtmen who made a handful of records and toured the region. He enlisted in the Army in 1966 but upon his return in 1968, he didn’t have much luck restarting his music career. In later years, he devoted his time to speaking against drug and alcohol abuse. Jack Ely was 71 when he died following a long illness on April 27, 2015.
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