I lost my friend Wally last week. On May 14, Wally Todd, guitarist with Jack Ely & the Courtmen, died of a sudden heart attack less than three weeks after the passing of his old bandmate.
I met Wally back in 1999 when the Courtmen did a big reunion show in Seaside, Oregon in 1999. I was lucky to witness this very special reunion of friends that hadn’t played together in over 30 years.
Here’s a photo of what the band looked like in 1966.
Here’s what they looked like when they reunited 33 years later.
The Courtmen took us a walking tour of Seaside, showing off their old stomping ground, including the housing complex where the Courtmen were living during the summer of 1966.
Here’s a photo of the band right before they went on stage. From the left, we have Wally Todd (guitarist), John Thoennes (promoter of this event, passed away in 2012), Gordon Hirsch (drummer), Jack Ely (singer, leader, bassist, died less than 3 weeks ago), and Billy Truitt (keyboards).
It was really wonderful to see the camaraderie of old friends getting together…
Here’s some video we shot with Wally at the reunion…
What many of these people didn’t realize was that person lip synching was not Jack, but Lynn Easton.
Rolling Stone.com also initially misidentified Jack in a Kingsmen photograph.
Luckily, the error was eventually corrected the next day.
This week, Entertainment Weekly continued the trend, using a photo of Lynn Easton for Jack’s obituary.
Just for future reference, here’s a photo of the three founding members of the Kingsmen.
if you need an assistance identifying a photo with Jack, or would like to obtain a proper photo of Jack, please drop me a line, OK?
P.S. Big thanks to Buck Munger for first spotting the Entertainment Weekly snafu.
UPDATE, TWO OR THREE WEEKS LATER:
The printed edition of the Rolling Stone continued to perpetuate their original mistake of their webpage, completely ignoring the comments on their website and my two separate emails (two separate RollingStone.com accounts) pointing out their error.
Yes, we’re still thinking about our friend Jack Ely…
This was a heavy hit at LOUIE Central, and some things just take longer to process..
My first posting on the passing of Jack Ely felt like the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There’s so many other things I could have posted on Jack, but so much of this will have to wait.
Jack Ely was born on September 11, 1943. I remember trying to add this piece of information to the September 11 page of Wikipedia.org website years ago, but i kept running into resistance by the administrators of that page.
Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead also shares the same birthday + year. Jack was a fan of the Grateful Dead. I’ve worked with various members of the band. With my co-producer Jesse Block, we’ve shot some great concert footage of Jerry Garcia and David Grissman that appeared in the “Grateful Dawg” documentary. I have a handful of friends that are friends with Mickey. I was hoping somewhere in my travels I might be able to arrange at least a telephone call between these two guys that shared the same birthday, but unfortunately that never happened.
I was able to talk Jack into singing “Happy Birthday / Louie Louie” over the phone to my sister Ann Casey, who also shares a September 11th birthday, which was extremely cool of Jack. (… and NO, there was no recording of this version)
Anyways, there’s more I could share, but it’s Friday, and I still haven’t named a LOUIE of the Week, so here’s something for your pleasure….
He also posted his own LOUIE LOUIE YouTube clip, which used his 1966 re-recording of the song with the Courtmen, released by Bang Records. I’m not sure who worked with Jack on this video clip, but his wife Wendy tells me it’s probably Gordy or Daryl. I like it a lot – lots of fast cut editing!
In other Jack-related news, I found out some interesting things via Facebook.
Thanks to my friend Denise Lamkin, I found out Whoopi Goldberg acknowledged Jack’s passing on The View on April 29th.
Did you know that in 1982, Jack Ely endorsed a gubernatorial candidate for Oregon that wanted to establish LOUIE LOUIE as the state song? Bravo to Frank Peters for a wonderful idea that was also attempted years later in Washington state!
Here’s a handful of recent articles that acknowledge the passing of Jack Ely…
Jack Ely, the original lead singer on the most popular version ever recorded of the song LOUIE LOUIE, died this week at his home in Oregon.
Jack was a member of the Kingsmen, but he left the band not long after recording the song, and never had the opportunity to rejoin the band after it became a hit record.
Jack was one of the two main reasons I embarked on this LOUIE LOUIE quest – the documentary project and the subsequent website you’re reading right now.
The other main reason was Richard Berry, the original songwriter. I met both of these guys at the KFJC Maximum LOUIE LOUIE Marathon many years ago. Richard was the one that composed the song, which he sold to pay for his wedding in 1957. When Richard arrived at this event, he was struggling, surviving on welfare benefits and taking data entry courses to boost his marketable skills, as his musical career just wasn’t paying the bills at the time.
When Jack Ely found out about this LOUIE LOUIE marathon, he was able to find a last-minute airline flight from Oregon to California, and attend this very special event. This marked the very first time these guys had ever met each other, and some serious musical history was made in August 1983.
I was the only one with a video camera when this special moment happened and, as I heard their stories, I thought how all of this had potential for a great documentary … even though I had never produced a documentary before.
In the years that passed, I continued to explore the big story, interviewing literally hundreds of people, including all of the original members of the Kingsmen, various associates of Richard Berry, lots of the musicians of the Pacific Northwest community that transformed the rhythm ‘n’ blues ditty into the now-iconic garage rock anthem, including members of the Fabulous Wailers, Little Bill & the Blue Notes, the Playboys (FIRST band to ever perform the song after Richard), Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Dave Lewis Group, the Frantics, the Sonics, and so many others.
I also had some success in uncovering the official documents on the infamous F.B.I. investigation of the song, and in creating this webpage which first appeared in cyberspace back in 1997.
Anyways, it’s been quite a journey, and I’m grateful Jack allowed me to document this grand story of his connection to this special song.
I’m very happy to see so many obituaries about my friend Jack. It’s very gratifying to see so many articles acknowledging his role with this iconic rock and roll musical phenomenon.
As I look at the various articles about Jack, I see a handful of common mistakes.
I know the late Robert Lindahl, original recording engineer for the Kingsmen’s LOUIE LOUIE recording (and Paul Revere & Raiders version) would have hated the statements about the “vocal microphone dangling from the ceiling.” The vocal microphone was actually mounted on a boom pole attached to a microphone stand, which might have been close to the ceiling, but wasn’t actually “dangling.”
A 455-page report by the F.B.I.? Did they re-release this thing with 2-3 times as many more pages? Where is this extended version? I got my 120+ page version directly from FBI after I wrote the letter in 1984, and haven’t heard about any new versions since then.
I was surprised that articles mentioning his next of kin failed to mention Wendy Ely, who was married to Jack for 16 years, 1 month and 1 day. This was the longest marriage for Jack, and she was with him until the very end.
The biggest mistake was all the various photos of the Kingsmen without Jack Ely. A couple of them actually tagged Lynn Easton in the photos as “Jack Ely.” I know there’s not nearly as many photos of the original Kingsmen with Jack as there are of the Kingsmen circa 1964 and beyond, but it still seems extremely sloppy that these organizations failed to find a proper photo with Jack, especially considering how easy it is to find such things via simple internet searches in 2015.
The photo is by Gino Rossi. He really should be properly credited whenever this photo of the band is used. If you’re a prominent news organization that wants to use this, you really should compensate him, as opposed to sending money to a stock photo company for an image that doesn’t even feature Jack Ely. It’s the right thing to do. Please visit Gino’s Facebook page for more information about any proper licensing arrangements.
Did you see that photo of Jack at the top of the page? That’s another one by Gino, with which he shared these thoughts on Jack….
I will remember Jack Ely from that first day at the Chase and for those first words of Louis Louie.
photographer of the Kingsmen and Paul Revere & Raiders during early years
Some of my other friends commented on the passing of Jack…
I remember the night that we were doing the Maximum Louie Louie marathon, and we got word that Jack was going to come visit the station. And then the next day he was there, meeting Richard Berry for the first time. And I felt so damn lucky to be there when it happened. Then, when the two of them performed together for the first time in that room, with Lady Bo and all of the other guest musicians who joined in, I could not believe how historical and at the same time down-to-earth that performance was. To be in that room was magic. That’s how I’ll remember Jack……
Jeff Stretch Riedle
instigator & co-producer of KFJC Maximum Louie Louie Marathon
The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie” was a staple for all bands in the 60’s. We did a few shows early on with the Kingsmen. After he joined the Army he was stationed at Fort Ord and came to a few of our shows we did in in the area. He always liked how we did “Louie Louie” and sat in with us. Good Bye old friend…..
Syndicate of Sound
Mark Lindsay, former lead singer with Paul Revere & Raiders, shared this Twitter feed to honor Jack:
My friend Theo de Grood of the Netherlands, shared this newspaper clipping from a prominent Dutch newspaper:
Jack’s son Sean Ely shared some heartfelt memories about his father when he was interviewed by KOIN 6 (CBS Portland).
Here are some of the video clips I shot with Jack ….
Here’s Jack’s reunion with the Courtmen – the band he created after his break with the Kingsmen. This performance took place in Seaside, Oregon – the town where the Kingsmen first heard the song on a little jukebox at a place called the “Pypo Club.”
Thirty years ago today, Richard Berry, author of the song “LOUIE LOUIE” met Jack Ely, the original vocalist for the Kingsmen, at KFJC Radio, Los Altos Hills, California. The date was August 20, 1983 – the second day of the legendary “Maximum: LOUIE LOUIE” radio marathon which played every known version of the song at time, which turned out to be well over 800 versions, lasting approximately 63 hours. This particular moment marked the very first time Richard Berry had ever met any member of the band that transformed his composition into the popular hit recording heard all over the world.
At the time of this meeting, Richard Berry was surviving on welfare in Los Angeles, taking data entry courses to obtain a more marketable job skill.
After this particular event, his life was forever changed…
Would you believe that today, April 6th, is the 50th anniversary of the day The Kingsmen stepped into a studio to record to create what they initially thought was a “terrible version” of song that was a regional hit for Rockin’ Robin Robert & The Fabulous Wailers?
NOTE: Be aware that the photo on the article link is of “Jack Ely & the Kingsmen” – the touring band created by original singer Jack Ely when he was not able to rejoin the band that did the original recording.
This photo, however, is one of the very few featuring the original five members that recorded THE SONG! Gino Rossi was responsible for taking this photo!
I’m saddened to report that my friend John Thoennes has passed away. John was a musician from Seaside, Oregon that played with a variety of different bands – Patriot, Washington Merry-Go-Round, the All-American Band, Pretty Face, the Disko Band, and his latest band – Yellow Bird.
I first made contact with John back in 1999 when he was putting together a big musical reunion show in Seaside, Oregon. The headlining act would be Jack Ely & the Courtmen, formerly “Jack Ely & the Kingsmen” – the band assembled by Jack to capitalize on his lead vocals on the Kingsmen‘s biggest hit. Denied a chance to tour with the actual band that did the original recording, Jack worked with promoter Pat Mason to provide an alternative to the Kingsmen band fronted by Jack’s former partner Lynn Easton. During this period, Jack and Courtmen spent a lot of time in Seaside, living close to Pat Mason’s headquarters, with occasional appearances at the local Pypo Club.
Needless to say, this band only lasted a short time before it was stopped by legal actions from the other Kingsmen, and Jack was forced to rename his band. The Courtmen lasted until 1967, when Jack was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army.
Prior to this special reunion event, Jack’s band had not played together in over 30 years. As this event would take place at their old stomping grounds of Seaside, featuring their old promoter/manager Pat Mason, there were bound to be some very special memories shared at this one-time event. Naturally, I made plans to attend, and document this event for posterity.
In this photo you can see John Thoennes with Jack Ely & the Courtmen – from left to right it’s Wally Todd, John, Gordon Hirsch, Jack Ely & Bill Truitt.
A lot of other NW bands were reunited at this event. James Manolides‘ old band James Henry & the Olympics were also onboard for this one. James Manolides had a special connection to the LOUIE legacy, as he was a member of the Frantics, one of the very first bands to perform the song in the Pacific Northwest, years before the Kingsmen took control of it.
I lost track of John after the event. He wasn’t reachable for years until I recently linked up with him on Facebook. He had lost a lot of weight, moved to Portland, and re-entered college after some big changes in his life. On Facebook, I learned more about his musical career that began in the 1960s, sharing some cool photos from his past…
Here’s John with Washington Merry-Go Round in 1969. From left to right, we have Thomas Wallis, Greg Sage (RIP), Larry Sage and John.
Here’s a photo of John Thonennes and the All American Band in 1978, which later evolved into Patriot. From left to right, we have Kent Roberts, Dan Flukinger, John, Gary Baxter and David Levin.
Here’s something you don’t see every day – a special performance by two former members of the Kingsmen that never toured together.
The Soul Benders were performing live in Bend, Oregon, and they had two special guests for their show – Jack Ely and Norm Sundholm of the Kingsmen.
Jack Ely was a founding member of the Kingsmen, playing with the band for over 3 years, singing LOUIE LOUIE for their record, and later quitting the band after a business dispute with co-founder Lynn Easton.
Norm Sundholm joined the Kingsmen after Jack and original bassist Bob Nordby left the band. When the band embarked on their first national tour, Norm was the bassist. During these big tours, Norm discovered that the amplifiers used by the band were inadequate, inspiring Norm to work with his brother Conrad Sundholm to develop some high-powered amplifiers, which led to the creation of the Sunn Musical Equipment Company. Eventually, Norm left the band, and devoted more time to his company, which provided amplifiers for the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, and countless other bands during the 1960s.
Needless to say, Jack and Norm didn’t collaborate on any music as the Kingsmen, as their paths were very different.
Fast forward to the 21st Century, and the two former Kingsmen take the stage as very special guests for the Soul Benders.
If this isn’t worthy of a LOUIE of the Week award, I don’t know what is.
Today – September 11 marks a birthday for Jack Ely, original lead singer for the Kingsmen, who created the iconic version of the song heard around the world.
Jack has certainly recorded more than just LOUIE LOUIE. In fact, Jack recently recorded an original composition for his upcoming album.
I’ll let Jack explain what he’s been up to…
When I’m not shouting “Louie Louie” or screaming, “Oo-Poo-Pah-Do” this is what I do…
Here is a link to the final mix of the title track to my new CD titled, “Love Is All Around You Now.”
This is a song I wrote after my mom came and visited me when I was living up next to the Mt. Hood National Forrest on the way up to Goat Mountain, southeast of Estacada, OR We had a fun horseback ride on some remote trails and the memories of this ride and mom’s exuberant love floods this song. I’m told it has inspired many to more grace. Hope you like it.