The Kingsmen formed in Portland, Oregon
in 1959. As young teenagers, they played high school parties, teen dances,
supermarket openings, and fashion shows. Like many fledgling bands of the day,
they copied what they heard on the radio: Elvis, The Ventures, Country music,
R&B, and the burgeoning Northwest Sound. They became one of the most
popular bands in the Portland
The band started recording in 1963. Their first effort was "Louie
Louie," a song played by virtually all Northwest rock & roll and
R&B bands, and an original instrumental, "HauntedCastle."
The session, costing $36 at Portland's Northwest
Recorders, produced a tape used to audition for a job on a cruise ship bound
The cruise line hated it!
Jerry Dennon, a record producer in Seattle, pressed a few hundred copies on his
regional label, Jerden. Northwest music fans were already familiar with
"Louie" as released by Richard Berry
(1956), the Wailers (1961), and Paul Revere and the Raiders (who recorded their
version in the same studio within a few days of the Kingsmen session).
The Kingsmen fought it out with the
Raiders on local radio for a few months. Somehow, the Kingsmen version found
its way to the East Coast, where a couple of Boston stations played it, generating a huge
response from listeners. Jerry Dennon entered into an agreement with New York's Wand label
for immediate mass pressing and distribution.
Wand worked the record effectively and
"Louie" rapidly broke out in several markets, climbing the charts. As
it began to drop, a controversy regarding the lyrics spread across America. The
record was banned from sales and airplay in Indiana and elsewhere which, of course,
stimulated even more interest; so much so that Wand reissued "Louie"
in 1964 (and in 1965 and 1966). The record reached #2 in Billboard and #1 in
The band's first LP resulted from a live recording in
1963 at The Chase, a teen nightclub in Milwaukee,
Oregon (production costs were
less than $800). Wand included the studio version of "Louie" to which
they added taped crowd noise to simulate a live performance (a practice Wand
continued for several subsequent studio LPs). "Money," their second
Wand single was taken from the live LP. Many more releases followed. At one
point, the Kingsmen had two singles and three LPs on the charts at the same
They became the #1 touring band in the United States.
In 1965, during a series of one-nighters, they set fifty-six consecutive
attendance records in colleges, ballrooms, arenas, state fairs, and community
dances. Many promoters used the Kingsmen as a promotional gimmick to
"repel" the British Invasion (a joke to the band, as they loved that
music). They appeared in concert and on television with the Rolling Stones,
Zombies, Kinks, Searchers, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, Dusty
Springfield, and others; and North American acts such as the Beach Boys, Righteous
Brothers, Four Seasons, Isley Brothers, Guess Who, Turtles, Shangri-Las, Byrds,
Lovin' Spoonful, Kinckerbockers, and all their Scepter/Want label mates. They
were featured on the top TV music shows including Shindig, Hullabaloo, American
Bandstand, Lloyd Thaxton, Action; and in the beach party movie, "How to
Stuff a Wild Bikini."
With two breaks (during the psychedelic and disco
eras), and several personnel changes along the way, they have performed ever
since at concerts, corporate events, beach parties, and "Louie Louie"
parades throughout North America. Three of the
Kingsmen, Mike Mitchell, Dick Peterson, and Barry Curtis, have been together
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