Jack Ely, the voice that sang on the most famous version of Louie Louie, has died of something or other at the age of 71. According to this report he’d been battling it for quite a while, but because of his father’s religious beliefs not even his son knows exactly what it was.
I always liked Louie Louie growing up, even though I had no earthly idea what in hell those guys were on about. I learned the story of it not being the Kingsmen’s song and it being about a sailor later on, but for years and years it was just that cool song I didn’t know the words to that would come on the oldies stations.
It was also, much like people reading me News of the Weird columns back in the day, a teaching moment. I don’t remember how old I was when I heard the story of the FBI obscenity investigation, but I do remember laughing my face off at the stupidity of it all, especially the nearly 500 page report on a 2 minute song that basically concluded that the most skilled police force in the land, much like me, had no earthly idea what in hell those guys were on about. I think I may have even slapped myself in the head as I sat next to my radio thinking “don’t you idiots have criminals to catch? People are doing bad things, you know.”
I never knew what became of Jack Ely after Louie Louie, but it seems he traded in the music business a few years later for a life of horse training and relative obscurity. I find that sort of thing fascinating. Most people can never get enough fame and will cling desperately to any thread of show business they can grab no matter how flimsy, while others like Bill Withers and Jack Ely just decide yeah, I’m done.