Tuesday, November 30, 2010

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Louis Prima & Keely Smith

Artist:Louis Prima & Keely Smith
Song:That Old Black Magic
Album:Jump, Jive an' Wail: The Essential Louis Prima

Louis Prima had been a very successful bandleader in the 40s. When the swing era ended, Prima wasn't interested in bebop and by the mid-50s had accepted a downgrade to Vegas lounge act with wife Keely Smith and longtime pal Sam Butera. But that lounge act became very popular resulting in hit records and TV and movie appearances. That Old Black Magic was their biggest hit. Prima was born Dec. 7, 1910 in New Orleans to Italian immigrants. He was proud of that heritage and was also a big Louis Armstrong fan. So he took up the trumpet and started singing just like his idol. He moved to New York and recorded in the 30s as Louis Prima and his New Orleans Gang. He wrote Sing, Sing, Sing which was a big hit for Benny Goodman. He moved to Los Angeles and fronted a traditional big band in the 40s featuring female singers like Lily Ann Carol and Cathy Allen. Keely Smith was born Dorothy Keely Mar. 9, 1928 in Norfolk, VA. She joined Prima in 1949 and they married in 1954. Prima was having trouble adjusting to the changes in the music business and was going nowhere recording for Columbia in the early 50s. He took up an offer to be the house band at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas in 1954. He called up his old buddy Sam Butera and the band was born. They worked very hard on this shtick of Prima and his goofy antics and Keely playing the straight girl and giving him dirty looks. They got a contract with Capitol and became one of the hottest acts in the US. That Old Black Magic reached #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it won a Grammy. They even made a couple of movies together. Of course it didn't last and they divorced in the early 60s. This comp is a good intro to their music. For those wondering, Keely Smith did record on her own. But she was missing something as a solo artist. The chemistry with Prima made the act. Louis Prima's new singer and new wife was Gia Malone. And he had a big role in the 1967 Disney film The Jungle Book. Prima started having health problems in 1973. A 1975 cerebral hemorrage left him in a coma and he died on Aug. 24, 1978 at age 67. His son Louis Prima Jr. does a tribute act. Keely Smith still performs and records occasionally. Here's Louis Prima & Keely Smith performing That Old Black Magic 1959.

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