Mike Mitchell, lead guitarist for the Kingsmen who sang the 1963 hit Louie Louie, dies

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Mike Mitchell, lead guitarist for the Kingsmen whose big hit was the 1963 Louie Louie, dies on his 77th birthday after more than 60 years in the music business.

  • Musician Mike Mitchell passed away on his 77th birthday on Friday
  • The news was shared on Monday by a publicist from his band The Kingsmen
  • Mitchell was the lead guitarist of the successful band for over 60 years
  • The band became best known for their 1963 hit recording of Richard Berry’s song Louie Louie
  • It tells the story of a sailor who returns to Jamaica to see his wife love
  • The tune was subsequently covered by the Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead and REM

Musician Mike Mitchell passed away on his 77th birthday on Friday.

The news was shared Monday by a publicist from his garage rock band The Kingsmen, for which Mitchell was the lead guitarist for over 60 years.

The band was best known for their 1963 hit recording of Richard Berry’s song Louie Louie, the story of a sailor who returns to Jamaica to see his wife love. The tune was subsequently covered by the Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead and REM

Sad loss to the music industry: musician Mike Mitchell, bottom left, died Friday on his 77th birthday; seen with his Kingsmen bandmates Dick Peterson, Barry Curtis, Norm Sundholm and Lynn Easton in 1965

Hot Tune: The band was best known for their 1963 hit recording of Richard Berry's song Louie Louie, the first-person story of a Jamaican sailor who returns to the island to see his lover.  The tune was subsequently covered by the Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead and REM

Hot Tune: The band was best known for their 1963 hit recording of Richard Berry’s song Louie Louie, the first-person story of a Jamaican sailor who returns to the island to see his lover. The tune was subsequently covered by the Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead and REM

No cause of death was given.

“We are deeply saddened by Mike’s passing. He was the nicest and most generous man in the world, ” drummer Dick Peterson said in a statement.

“Mike is irreplaceable, and he will be greatly missed not only by us but also by the fans. Mike was a favorite for his comedic nature and his musicality, ‘added Peterson.

Mitchell was the last remaining original member of the Kingsmen group.

The good old days: (clockwise from left) Peterson, Mitchell, Sundholm, Easton and Curtis of the rock and roll group The Kingsmen pose for a portrait in circa 1964

The good old days: (clockwise from left) Peterson, Mitchell, Sundholm, Easton and Curtis of the rock and roll group The Kingsmen pose for a portrait in circa 1964

A more recent look at the guitarist: the musician seen in a YouTube video;  he remained active with his music career until his death

A more recent look at the guitarist: the musician seen in a YouTube video; he remained active with his music career until his death

The band was formed in Portland, Oregon in 1959; In addition to Mitchell, members were Dick Peterson, Barry Curtis and Norm Sundholm.

Their biggest hit was Louie Louie who reached number two on the US charts in 1963 and became known as the best version of the song.

The big highlight of the tune was Mitchell’s impressive guitar solo in the middle of the song, which has been called one of the best riffs in rock and roll history.

But the song had a scandalous past.

Hitmakers: Their next hits included Money (That's What I Want), Little Latin Lupe Lu, Death of An Angel and The Jolly Green Giant

Hitmakers: Their next hits included Money (That’s What I Want), Little Latin Lupe Lu, Death of An Angel and The Jolly Green Giant

It was recorded in one shot with low-quality recording equipment, giving it a scratchy quality.

The lyrics were not easy to hear due to the bad recording and also because the band members thought it was just a rehearsal. As a result, some of the words seemed to sound indecent, prompting complaints that it was called pornographic.

Indiana Governor Matthew Welsh did not allow the recording of the song to be sold in his state.

He stayed close: Mike played with the band for over 60 years.

He stayed close: Mike played with the band for over 60 years. “His playing only got better as he got older,” the Oregon Music Hall of Fame said in a Facebook post on Saturday; seen in 1965

The FBI stepped in, who investigated the song and even checked the lyrics in a sound lab.

The agency decided it was impossible to hear exactly what the band was singing.

Their next hits included Money (That’s What I Want), Little Latin Lupe Lu, Death of An Angel and The Jolly Green Giant.

Mike played with the band for over 60 years.

“His playing only got better as he got older,” the Oregon Music Hall of Fame said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

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