Louis Prima

From Wind Repertory Project
Louis Prima


Louis Prima (7 December 1910, New Orleans, La. – 24 August 1978, New Orleans) was an American singer, actor, songwriter, and trumpeter. He was known as The King of the Swing.

Prima's mother, Angelina, was a first-generation Italian American in New Orleans. She made sure that each child played an instrument. Prima was assigned the violin and started out playing at St. Ann's Parish. He became interested in jazz when he heard black musicians, including Louis Armstrong, and picked up his brother's trumpet. He formed his first band in 1924, at the age of 14.

After being part of a number of groups in New Orleans, in 1934 Prima went to New York City where he formed his own very successful band of five musicians. He began recording for the Brunswick label with such songs as That’s Where the South Begins, Long About Midnight, Jamaica Shout, and Star Dust. His jukebox hit, The Lady in Red, was recorded in 1935.

Prima rode the musical trends of his time, starting with his seven-piece New Orleans style jazz band in the late 1920s, then leading a swing combo in the 1930s (with whom he played for President Roosevelt's birthday), a big band in the 1940s, a Vegas lounge act in the 1950s, and a pop-rock band in the 1960s.

Among his compositions, Sing, Sing, Sing, which he composed for Benny Goodman, is the best known. Prima was married to singer Keely Smith and they often performed together, including the hit Old Black Magic.

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