Mike Mitchell, lead guitarist for the Kingsmen for more than six decades, died Friday on his 77th birthday, according to a publicist for the group.
Mitchell was the last founding member still playing with the Portland, Oregon, band best known for its confounding rock cover of the R&B song “Louie Louie.”
“We are deeply saddened by Mike’s passing. He was the kindest and most generous man on the planet,” drummer Dick Peterson said in a statement.
“Mike is irreplaceable, and he will be greatly missed not only by us but the fans as well. Mike was a favorite for his comedic nature as well as his musicianship,” Peterson added.
The Kingsmen gained their legendary status after their single of “Louie Louie,” which was performed in one take with poor recording equipment in 1963 and was widely misinterpreted as having indecent lyrics.
Music critic Dave Marsh referred to lead singer Jack Ely’s vocals as resembling “Donald Duck on helium.” Then-Indiana Gov. Matthew Welsh banned sales of the recording in his state, claiming it was pornographic. The FBI conducted an investigation — but the inquiry ended after their sound laboratory was unable to clearly determine what was actually being sung.
“Louie Louie” has since been covered by everyone from the Beach Boys to the Grateful Dead to R.E.M.
Mitchell performed the famous jangly guitar solo in the middle of the song and continued to perform with different lineups of the band for more than 60 years.
“His playing just got better as he aged,” the Oregon Music Hall of Fame said in a Facebook post Saturday.