Jack Ely, whose 1963 song Louie Louie was so unintelligible that the US government investigated it for secret messages, has died aged 71.

Ely was the 20-year-old singer of The Kingsmen when the band recorded the hard-charging song, which became a hit at the start of the rock era even though the only clear words were in the title.

The song came to the attention of FBI director J Edgar Hoover, who was notorious for secret investigations, after the song was banned in the state of Indiana.

Ely later said that the controversy started when a girl in Indiana alleged that the record carried obscene messages when slowed down to 33 rpm, and her mother passed along the message to the state governor.

A file declassified years later by the FBI included a letter from a concerned citizen saying that the lyrics were “so filthy I cannot include them.”

But a subsequent memo stated matter-of-factly that “three governmental agencies dropped their investigations because they were unable to determine what the lyrics of the song were, even after listening to the records at speeds ranging from 16 rpm to 78 rpm.”


Ely said that the lyrics were unexceptional and that the effect came because the microphone was hanging from the ceiling — which the producer thought would give a more live feel.

The Kingsmen had limited success after “Louie Louie” and Ely’s career with other acts was cut short when he was drafted during the Vietnam War.

He later trained horses at a farm in central Oregon where he died on Monday.


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