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 Louis Prima

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Louis Prima

Musician. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a child he studied violin for several years before claiming his brother’s trumpet. By the time he was twelve, and his fifteen-year-old brother Leon were leading their own band, which started as the pit band of the Saenger Theater. At 22, he was spotted performing with Red Nichols by Guy Lombardo who encouraged him to move to New York. There he formed his own band, Louis Prima and his New Orleans Gang. His 1936 composition "Sing, Sing Sing" became one of the biggest hits and most covered numbers of the period. In 1939, Prima dissolved his Gang in favor of fronting a big band of his own; The Gleeby Rhythm Orchestra. He moved to Los Angeles where he headlined at the Famous Door nightclub. In 1948, he hired sixteen year old Dorothy Keely Smith, as his singer and their onstage chemistry was immediate. He would make her Mrs. Prima number four in 1952. In 1954, Prima accepted a booking at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas and his late show became one of the city’s hottest attractions. Prima and Smith divorced in 1961, and he married another singer, Gia Maione, after which he continued to work in Vegas. In 1967, Disney, in an inspired decision, cast Prima in the animated feature, “The Jungle Book” as the orangutan, King Louis. "I Wanna Be Like You" was a hit song from the movie that led to the recording of two albums with Phil Harris who voiced Baloo the Bear: “The Jungle Book” and “More Jungle Book”, on Disneyland Records. He also appeared on the soundtrack to “The Man Called Flintstone”. Prima's act moved back to New Orleans Orleans in the early 1970s. In 1975 Prima underwent brain surgery in order to remove a tumor and lapsed into a coma. He remained hospitalized until his death almost three years later. He was interred in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans in a grey marble crypt topped by a figure of Gabriel, the angel with a trumpet. Prima’s music continues to be covered by other musicians, including the Brian Setzer Orchestra who covered the Prima standard "Jump and Jive and Wail" during the 1990s nouveau swing period, sending it to the top of the charts once again.

Bio by: Iola


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 16 Feb 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 4567
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Louis Prima (7 Dec 1910–24 Aug 1978), Find A Grave Memorial no. 4567, citing Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .