Mike Mitchell, known for being a founding member and guitarist for famed ’60s rock band The Kingsmen, has died at 77 years old. He passed away last Friday (April 16) on his 77th birthday.
Rolling Stone received confirmation of Mitchell’s death from Kingsmen drummer Dick Peterson, who said he “peacefully passed away.” No specific cause of death has been stated.
“We are deeply saddened by Mike’s passing. He was the kindest and most generous man on the planet,” Peterson said in a statement.
“For the past 57 years, we have been playing colleges, fairs, and festivals, vintage car shows and rock n’ roll shows throughout the USA. Mike is irreplaceable, and he will be greatly missed not only by us but the fans as well. Mike was a favourite for his comedic nature as well as his musicianship.”
Guitarist Joe Walsh, known for his work in The Eagles and Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, praised Mitchell in another statement, saying: “My sincere condolences. I learned to play the guitar because of Mike Mitchell. I know every one of his solos, mistakes and all. We’re losing the good guys.”
Mitchell became the last founding member to remain in the band, after vocalist Jack Ely and bassist Bob Nordby both left in 1963. He continued to play with a rotating lineup for the next six decades.
The Kingsmen’s biggest hit was their 1963 version of ‘Louie Louie’, which Mitchell played the famed guitar-line in. Upon release, the song was investigated by police under suspicions of obscene lyrics, although, the FBi eventually concluded the song was “unintelligible at any speed.”
‘Louie Louie’ was originally written and recorded two years prior by Richard Berry. Other artists, including The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Iggy Pop and Motörhead, went on to cover the famed track.
In 2014, NME named The Kingsmen’s version of ‘Louie Louie’ one of the top 500 greatest songs of all time – slotting it at #157 and praising the re-work as “a crude beat-group howl.”