Louis Prima

Biography

Every generation seems to re-discover Louis Prima. Disney fittingly turned him into a jovial primate for The Jungle Book in 1967, David Lee Roth did a note-for-note cover of "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" in 1985 and most recently, Brian Setzer and other Swing revivalists have used his sound as a template. Prima was a longtime veteran of the jazz scene who struck gold in the 1950s by mixing his Louis Armstrong influences with swinging jazz, throbbing Jump Blues, early R&B and Neapolitan zaniness. Just by itself, his music was unforgettable; but when combined with his hilariously brash sense of showmanship, Prima became unstoppable. Backed by saxophonist Sam Butera's band and a succession of straight-faced female foils (the finest being the angelic Keely Smith, who went on to achieve major success as a solo artist), Prima literally had "the wildest show in town" while also penning such standards as "Sing Sing Sing," and "A Sunday Kind of Love." His bawdy act excited the sex-starved masses of the Eisenhower era, earned respect from jazz hepcats, and was studied and appreciated by greasy-haired teenagers growing up on rock 'n' roll. While Prima's recorded output suffered when he left Capitol Records for supposedly greener pastures, he remained a very popular live act well into the '60s.
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