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Founding Kingsmen guitarist Mike Mitchell, who played on “Louie Louie,” dead at 77

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L-R: Norm Sundholm, Lynn Easton, Dick Peterson, Mike Mitchell and Barry Curtis of The Kingsmen in 1964; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Guitarist Mike Mitchell, a founding member of the Portland, Oregon, garage-rock group The Kingsmen, best known for their hit 1963 cover of the rock ‘n’ roll party anthem “Louie Louie,” died Friday, April 16, according to a post on the band’s official website.

Mitchell passed away on his 77th birthday.

“We are deeply saddened by Mike’s passing. He was the kindest and most generous man on the planet,” the message reads. “Mike is irreplaceable and he will be greatly missed not only by us but the fans as well. Mike was a favorite for his kindness, comedic nature as well as his musicianship.”

The Kingsmen formed as a teenage combo in 1959, and in ’63 they recorded a raucous version of doo-wop singer/songwriter Richard Berry‘s 1955 tune “Louie Louie.” The track shot up the Billboard Hot 100 chart to #2 and helped make the group a popular touring act.

The Kingsmen scored a few follow-up hits, most notably with a cover of “Money (That’s What I Want)” and the original tune “The Jolly Green Giant,” which reached #16 and #4 on the Hot 100, respectively, in 1964.

Countless artists have covered “Louie Louie” over the years, inspired by The Kingsmen’s version, and the band’s recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Mitchell continued to perform with The Kingsmen, through various lineup changes, up until his death. He was the last surviving founding member still in the group.

Mike is survived by two children, Max and Samantha.

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