Louis Prima

Author: Garry Boulard

Publication date: 2002 (1st paperback edition)

Music In American Life Series

University of Illinois Press

“In a career that spanned four decades, Prima infused the grit and grace of Dixieland jazz with swing and big band sounds, the first whiffs of rock 'n' roll, and a vaudevillian stage presence. A native of New Orleans, the Guy Lombardo protégé known as "The Italian Satchmo" was the country's smashing new jazz sensation at New York's Famous Door in the 1930s. He went on to be a successful big band leader, was a Las Vegas nightclub staple, and virtually created the concept of the lounge act. Despite his long-standing success, Prima's over-the-top on-stage antics induced critics not to take him seriously, and he was relegated to the status of mere entertainer.

Married five times and involved with numerous women in between, Prima has more often been remembered for his colorful relationships and quirky personality than for his abilities as a trumpeter and singer. After his death in 1978, his music gradually disappeared and jazz scholars rarely mentioned his name.

Nudging Prima's legacy into the limelight the musician deserved, Garry Boulard nimbly explores Prima's ability to maintain a lifelong career, his knack for self-promotion, and how the cities in which he lived and performed--New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas--uniquely and indelibly informed his style. In a new preface, the author considers how the resurgence of big band and swing music in the late 1990s catapulted Prima and his music back into the public eye.."

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