“King” Louie Bankston, a prolific and provocative mainstay of New Orleans’ underground punk rock scene, died Sunday at Ochsner Medical Center from complications related to heart failure. He was 49 years old.
Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and versatile character, Bankston’s many projects included 1960s garage rock band The Royal Pendletons, punk band The Lame Ones, power-pop ensemble The Missing Monuments, King Louie & the Loose Diamonds and the King Louie One Man Band.
None achieved mass success. But he was more comfortable in small, scruffy rooms where he could be himself.
“It was a wild card,” said Mike Hurtt of the Royal Pendletons. “He was fearless. He didn’t feel obligated to follow a rule book. He liked music but he didn’t have typical tastes.
Born Louis Paul Bankston, he grew up in Harahan, where his family owned a hardware store. Passionate about skateboarding in middle school, he persuaded his father to integrate a skate shop into the hardware store.
Skate culture cultivated Bankston’s interest in fast, loud music. From the end of the 1980s, he formed, dissolved and reformed groups that adhered to this aesthetic.
In the early 90s, the Royal Pendletons became his first substantial and sustained musical venture; he played drums, wrote songs and sang. Big Star’s Alex Chilton produced the Pendletons’ “Oh Yeah, Baby” album in 1998.
In the late 1990s, Bankston briefly moved to Portland, Oregon, and co-wrote much of power-pop band Exploding Hearts’ album “Guitar Romantic” in 2000. He soon returned to the New Orleans area.
“He was still working on music,” said his close mother, Elaine Bankston. “He was constantly writing songs. That’s what he liked to do. »
He has released dozens of vinyl records. “That’s the most important thing for an artist – to get it out there,” Hurtt said. “He didn’t let things get in his way.”
Local sound experimenter Mr. Quintron described Bankston’s lyrics as “hilarious, heartfelt, romantic and poetic”, while comparing his unconventional guitar style to that of Keith Richards.
“It was this very personal mess,” Quintron said. “It was this clumsy assembly of notes and riffs, but it made sense.”
Bankston has toured the United States and Europe several times. He and Exploding Hearts guitarist Terry Six eventually reunited as a Terry & Louie duo. They performed four concerts in Japan in July 2019.
Bankston could be unpredictable, sometimes turning up unannounced at Quintron’s for unscheduled morning gigs.
“When he was (on stage) and present, he gave it his all,” Quintron said. “He was so raw and so the. You never felt it would crumble.
Through personal ups and downs, he remained dedicated to making music on his terms.
“Everything bad that happened to you, you end up thinking about it and laughing about it,” Bankston told music journalist Alison Fensterstock in 2011.
“So I try to look at it in the moment and say, ‘Instead of looking at this five years from now and laughing, let’s do it now. Let’s just find a way. Maybe between the guitar solo and the ooh-la-la, there must be happiness.”
His health has deteriorated in recent years, a process exacerbated by drug addiction. He left behind about five albums of unreleased material.
WWOZ-FM deejay AJ “The Boudin Man” Rodrigue devoted his two-hour “Kitchen Sink” show Wednesday night to a tribute to Bankston.
“In time,” Quintron predicted, “he will be recognized as a major contributor to Louisiana music in that idiom” of rock ‘n’ roll.
Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home, 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd., is responsible for arrangements. Visitation begins at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, February 22 and will be followed by a funeral service at 1 p.m.
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