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The Kingsmen’s Mike Mitchell Explains The FBI Controversy Behind “Louie, Louie”

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Photo courtesy of Mr. Rock N' Roll Inc.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Rock N’ Roll Inc.

kearthevents Britt Bickel
Web Producer |
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Although you’ve probably heard the story about the classic rock band The Kingsmen being wrapped up in a FBI investigation over their hit song “Louie, Louie,” you probably haven’t heard the full story from one of the bandmates themselves.

This morning one of the founding members of the Kingsmen, Mike Mitchell, joined us on the phone to talk about the band’s upcoming show at this year’s Glendale Cruise Nights. Of course while we had him on the phone, we had to hear the full story of how their hit “Louie, Louie” became a target with the FBI.

The song, which the band recorded in 1963 for just $36 as part of an audition to be the house band on a cruise ship, has continued to enthrall audiences of all generations. Though the recording ultimately didn’t get them the job on the cruise ship, (“They said it was the worst thing they ever heard,” Mike laughed.) The Kingsmen did get a No. 2 hit on their hands.

But that hit also launched a full-scale FBI investigation prompted by director J. Edger Hoover for alleged obscenity in the lyrics. Because of the unintelligible lyrics sung by Jack Ely, The Kingsmen were wrapped up in controversy after rumors spread that Ely intentionally slurred the words because it contained obscene lyrics. The song was subsequently banned from numerous radio stations across the country and was investigated by the FBI.

“We had the FBI at every show, because J. Edger Hoover wanted to put us in prison, ” Mike said. “It was kind of strange place to be in between all this stuff.”

He notes that Hoover never did find out whether song contained obscenities in the lyrics.

“It went straight to the Supreme Court and the judge deemed it ‘unintelligible at any speed and the worst piece of s–t’ he ever heard,” said Mike.

You can catch The Kingsmen singing “Louie, Louie” and all their classic hits live at the 21st Annual Glendale Cruise Nights this Saturday night! Get the complete details here. And Mike promises to put on one heck of a show for all the fans.

“We have a good time! We like to have fun, there will be a few jokes here and there, and just a high energy of rock and roll show,” he said.

Listen to our complete interview with Mike Mitchell in the clip below.

Mike Mitchell

K-EARTH 101
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