Mr. Louis Prima
on December 7, 1910 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Louis
Prima was a trumpeter, band leader, singer, composer,
and sometime film star. The son of Italian immigrant
parents Angelina and Anthony Prima. He was educated
at Jesuit High School, and studied the violin for
several years under Hemmersback, before switching
to the trumpet.
At the tender age of 17, Louis was inspired by such
jazz greats as Louis Armstrong and King Oliver.
He aquired his first job as a singer/trumpeter in
a New Orleans theater - his older brother, Leon,
also played trumpet at a local night-spot.
the early 30s Prima worked with Red Nichols, before
forming his own seven-piece group called 'New Orleans
Gang', with its signature tune, 'Way Down Yonder
In New Orleans'. They recorded more than 70 titles
in New York for various labels from 1934-39, some
of which made the US Hit Parade.
this stage, Prima was also composing songs, and
one of them, 'Sing, Sing, Sing', when developed
by Benny Goodman, became a smash hit for the 'King
Of Swing', and remains a Swing Era classic.
the years, Prima wrote and co-wrote many other songs,
including 'Robin Hood', which was a success for
Les Brown in 1945. Also in 1945, Prima had engagements
at Frank Dailey's Terrace Room in Newark New Jersey.
He also wrote the 1947 Jo Stafford hit, 'A Sunday
Kind Of Love'.
'Little Boy Blew His Top'
'Where Have We Met Before?'
'Boogie In The Bronx'
'Boogie In Chicago'
'It's The Rhythm In Me'
'Sing A Spell'
'It's A Southern Holiday'
'Rhythm On The Radio'.
making an good impression in his feature film debut
in the Bing Crosby movie musical Rhythm On The Range
(1936), Prima continued to have relatively small,
but telling roles in a number of other movies, notably
Rose Of Washington Square (1939), in which he enhanced
Alice Faye 's rendering of 'I'm Just Wild About
Harry' with his ebullient and exciting trumpet accompaniment.
By this time he had his own big band which he fronted
with great showmanship and panache. 40's Prima hits
included 'Angelina', 'Bell-Bottom Trousers' (vocal:
Lily Ann Carol), and 'Civilization (Bongo, Bongo,
Bongo)', an amusing novelty from the 1947 Broadway
revue 'Angel In The Wings". In 1941 Prima and
his orchestra had an engagment at the Trianon Ballroom
in Seattle Washington, one of the songs performed
there was 'Sing Sing Sing' and featured a 16 year
old drummer named Jimmy Vincent, who went on to
perform with Prima right on through the Vegas years.
1948, Prima began working with the poker-faced 16
year old singer Dorthy Keely Smith daughter of Fannie
and Jesse Smith, she was born in Norfolk, VA. After
having a hit in 1950 with their joint composition
'Oh, Babe!', they were married on July 13, 1953
and had two daughters,Toni Elizabeth and Luanne
Frances. Keely was his fourth wife.
the next decade they were recognized as one of the
hottest nightclub acts in the USA, and became known
as 'The Wildest Show In Las Vegas'. Prima's inspired
clowning and zany vocals delivered in a fractured
Italian dialect, coupled with Smith's cool image
and classy singing, were augmented by tenor saxophonist
Sam Butera and his group, the Witnesses. A typical
performance was filmed at Lake Tahoe in 1957, and
released under the title of The Wildest, and they
reassembled in 1959 for the feature Hey Boy! Hey
Girl! Prima and Smith were awarded Grammys in 1958
for their inimitable reading of the Harold Arlen
- Johnny Mercer standard, 'That Old Black Magic'.
1958 Prima was briefly in the UK Top 30 with Carl
Sigman and Peter de Rose's 'Buona Sera', and two
years later made the US singles and albums charts
with the instrumental 'Wonderland By Night'. Other
Top 40 albums included 'Las Vegas-Prima Style' and
Hey Boy!, Hey Girl! In 1961, while still at the
height of their fame - and having recently signed
a multi-million dollar contract with the Desert
Inn, Las Vegas, the couple were divorced, he then
married another girl singer Gia Maione, and continued
to work in Vegas through 1967.
1967 Prima and Butera subsequently attempted to
cash in on the then-popular dance fad by appearing
in the movie 'Twist All Night', which sank without
a trace in spite of items such as 'When The Saints
Go Twistin' In'. Most memorable was Prima's contribution
in 1967 to The Jungle Book , the Walt Disney Studio's
first cartoon feature in four years, which went
on to gross about $26 million. Prima provided the
voice of the orang-utan King Louie, and sang the
film's hit song, 'I Wanna Be Like You'. As a result
of Phil Harris' and Prima's success with the Jungle
Book movie, they cut two albums "The Jungle
Book", on Disneyland records and "More
Jungle Book". The combination of receipts from
both albums led Prima to a gold record.
the later years Prima mostly confined himself to
performing with a small group at Casino's such as
the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas. In the early 1970s Prima's
act was no longer a crowd drawer as in the old days
in Vegas, so he moved with Butera back to New Orleans,
getting steady work for the tourist crowd.
October 1975 underwent surgery for the removal of
a brain tumor. He never regained consciouness from
the operation. Disabled and incapable of communicating
remained in a coma until in early July of 1978 he
contracted pneumonia. Fed through a tube and given
hoards of antibiotics, he was given his last rights.
Prima a strong willed man hung on for another six
weeks until he died from complications due to the
brain stem tumor on August 24, 1978 in a New Orleans
nursing home. He is buried in the Metairie Cemetery
in New Orleans, Louisiana along side his mother
and father Anthony (died 1961)and Angelina(died
to the Music Room