#807: Louisiana by Mike Kennedy

Peak Month: April 1972
7 weeks on  CKVN chart
Peak position in Vancouver ~ #2
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #62
YouTube: “Louisiana
Lyrics: “Louisiana

Michael Volker Kogel was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1944. His father acted in cabaret and hardly spent anytime with the family. His mother struggled and ended up taking her life when she was 65. Kogel grew up with his grandmother who was a Jehovah’s Witness. In the late 50s, Kogel was an apprentice to become a brewmaster. He got captivated with rock ‘n roll played at the American military base in Cologne. He started singing songs by Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Pat Boone, and Ricky Nelson, in local clubs. In 1962, he released a pop single in West Germany titled “Ein Mädchen Nach Maß”.  It was credited to ‘Michael.’ In 1964 he was fronting a beat band named Mike and the Firebirds. They had a single in West Germany titled “Der Knüller Mausi Müller”. A second release was a cover of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” titled “Lass Sie Gehn”. Sometime in 1965, Michael Kogel became the lead singer for Mike Rat and the Runaways. They released a cover of the Major Lance tune “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um”. Next up, Kogel became the lead singer for Los Bravos. The band had an international Top Ten hit in 1966 titled “Black Is Black”.

Louisiana by Mike Kennedy

“Black Is Black” peaked at #1 in Canada (including Edmonton, Hamilton, Medicine Hat, and Vancouver), #2 in the UK and South Africa, #3 in Austria and the Netherlands, #4 in Belgium, the USA and West Germany. Los Bravos had already had two Top Ten hits in Spain in 1965 with a Spanish-language cover of Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual”, and “La parada del autobus”. A Top Ten hit in Spain, “Trapped”, followed “Black Is Black”, but didn’t chart elsewhere. The band had more Top Ten hits in Spain in 1967-68 with “La Moto”, “Los chicos con las chicas” (from the film soundtrack), “Bring A Little Lovin'”. The latter single climbed to #5 in New Glasgow (NS) and #11 in Vancouver (BC) in June ’68. Tragedy struck the band in 1968 when Los Bravos’ founding members, Manuel Fernández, committed suicide on May 20, 1968, at the age of 23. This was shortly after the death of his bride, Lottie Rey, in an auto accident while he was driving. Kogel subsequently left Los Bravos later in 1968 to develop a solo career under the name Mike Kennedy.

Kogel told a reporter in Spain in 2024, that “I was and am a lost hypochondriac. It all started before a concert in Istanbul, in 1967. I wanted to try the hashish there, and I mixed it with alcohol and amphetamines. We took amphetamines as snacks. To hold on, because we played eight hours straight. So, with that cocktail, I went to perform and I felt terrible. I had arrhythmias, I thought my heart was stopping, I had to lean on the wall with one hand… That became an obsession and sometimes it still happens to me. It’s like having ants crawling all over my body. So I always took the doctor to calm me down. But I never had a problem with hard drugs. Only hashish, amphetamines and cigars. I saw some tripi, but I never took it.”

Miguel Rios says of Kogel, “When he left Los Bravos I met him for a few years on the bowling circuit during his solo career. I was amazed by his stamina to sing and then go out and sing as if nothing had happened, not even an out of tune. It’s possible that Mike was shy and needed to drink to combat stage fright. And singing, well he has thrown himself into the gap for a long time.”

Between 1969 and the late 70s, billed as Mike Kennedy, Kogel released over several dozen singles. Many were in English, some were in Spanish, and others in German. But these didn’t achieve success. One exception was his 1972 release, “Louisiana”.

Louisiana by Mike Kennedy
“Louisiana” was a track from the album Mike Is Mike. It was written by José Fernando Arbex. He was a Spanish songwriter who was born in Madrid in 1942. While still in his teens, he was the drummer in Los Estudiantes, and in 1965 he formed and played drums in the very successful pop band Los Brincos (dubbed the “Spanish Beatles”). One of their biggest hits was “Major” in 1966. After that group split in the late 1960s, Arbex formed the progressive Latin rock trio Alacrán with Iñaki Egaña and Oscar Lasprilla, releasing an album Alacran in 1969 which has drawn comparisons with Santana. When Lasprilla left the band and moved to England, Arbex and Egaña founded the Latin disco and rock-orientated Barrabás, who went on to considerable European success throughout from 1971 to 1983. Their most successful hit was “Woman” in 1971. At the age of 56, Arbex died in 2003 after a long illness.

“Louisiana” is a song about a guy who asks his girlfriend to throw him a kiss, and wish him luck. He’s saying goodbye since he’s on his way to Louisiana. For how long, the lyrics do not tell us. He promises “my girl, you’ll always be.” Moreover, he tells her “I leave you my love.” It seems he’s on his way to Louisiana for more than a week long business trip. However, it seems he plans to arrange for her to join him in Louisiana once he gets settled: “I’m on my way to Louisiana. And I promise that I’ll soon be there with you.”

“Louisiana” peaked at #2 in Vancouver (BC), #5 in Olympia (WA), #6 in Endicott (NY), #9 in San Bernardino (CA) and Anchorage (AK), #10 in Los Angeles, #11 in Pomona (CA), #12 in Denver, #13 in Fresno (CA) and Boston, and #14 in San Diego and Seattle.

Several people in the music business, including one of his managers, observed Kogel “had no business sense or discipline to promote his career…. He continued to be an anarchist. Manuel Diaz adds, “He liked success, but he did nothing to achieve it. On the contrary, everything he did was to make it more difficult for himself. But his voice and his way of singing… There was never anyone in Spain who could compete with him in pop-rock.”

Kogel rejoined Los Bravos from 1975-76, and for reunions in 2004 and 2015. In the eighties, Kogel states he acted in Latin America, “in El Salvador the guerrillas almost kidnapped me.”

Miguel Rios, who had an international hit in the early 70s titled “Song Of Joy”, had this to say about Michael Kogel. “He was a force of nature. He sang as well as Gene Pitney or Del Shannon, with the same range, but with more volume in his voice. There was no one in these parts who had such a peculiar voice.”

Kogel was part of nostalgic tours with other musicians from the sixties… “I have come to have a lot of money, but as it came it was gone,” he confesses. For the last 15 years Michael Kogel has lived in Vitoria, alone, in a fourth floor without elevator, an apartment of about 40 square meters. “I was happy there,” he admits.

The Limited Times in Spain wrote in February 2024, “Kennedy has no assets: no house, no cars, no other types of material assets. His financial situation is far from good. He was not the author of the greatest hits of Los Bravos and he does not charge for it.”

In October 2023, Michael Kogel suffered a fall in his home in Vitoria, Spain. His caregiver of 15 years, Begoña, found him lying on the floor. As a result, he needs help walking. He is grateful for the assistance, though he is referred to by those who know him as “a most ungovernable man.”

June 29, 2024
Ray McGinnis

The extraordinary life of Mike Kennedy, voice of Los Bravos and genuine rebel to this day,” The Limited Times, February 17, 2024.
The Lives And Deaths of Los Bravos,” majorcanvillas.com.
Los Brincos, “Mejor“, Novola Records, 1966.
Barabas, “Woman“, 1971.
Fernando Arbex,” Wikipedia.org.
Top 40 Hits,” CKVN, April 3, 1972.
Mike Kennedy – Chart History,” Billboard.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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