"Louie Louie" guitarist Mike Mitchell died on Friday, April 16, 2020, which would've been his 77th birthday. Kingsmen drummer Dick Peterson, of which Mitchell was a founding member, confirmed the news. However, no cause of death has been revealed yet. It's only known that he "peacefully passed away."
The Kingsmen wrote about his passing on their website with an intimate tribute for the late guitarist. "We are deeply saddened by Mike’s passing. He was the kindest and most generous man on the planet," it read. "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." Mitchell's death was felt not only in his close community, but also in the music industry at large. “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," guitarist Joe Walsh said, per Rolling Stone.
Mitchell was the last living founding member of the band, which was formed in Portland, Oregon in 1959. The group largely became known for its 1963 hit "Louie Louie," a cover of Richard Berry’s 1957 song of the same name. The single served six nonconsecutive weeks at Number Two on the Hot 100. The influential song would later inspire bands like Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys, the Sonics, the Beatles, the Troggs, Motörhead, Black Flag, Mothers of Invention, and Iggy Pop to release their own covers of the song.
The group eventually split in 1963, with the founding members at odds. Jack Ely left the group and formed another The Kingsmen, which led to a legal battle over the band’s name. Both he and bassist Bob Nordby left The Kingsmen before the release of "Louie Louie." Mitchell would remain the band's guitarist for the next 62 years. He recorded six albums between 1963 and 1966. Though they're widely remembered as one of the world's biggest "one hit wonders," the group (with Mitchell as its leader) earned a number of successful songs in the early half of the 1960s. The songs include “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” “Money (That’s What I Want)” and the hit “Jolly Green Giant.” He is survived by his children Samantha and Max.