Louis Prima

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Louis Prima (7 December 1910[1] – 24 August 1978) was a Sicilian-American singer, actor, songwriter, and trumpeter. Prima rode the musical trends of his time, starting with his seven-piece New Orleans style jazz band in the 1920s, then successively leading a swing combo in the 1930s, a big band in the 1940s, a Vegas lounge act in the 1950s, and a pop-rock band in the 1960s. In each of his musical endeavors, he incorporated his exuberant personality into his act.


Early life and career

Prima was born into a musical family in New Orleans. His family emigrated from Sicily, Italy, and after a brief stay in Argentina settled in the United States. Louis Prima attended Jesuit High School but was expelled for misbehavior.[2] Prima studied violin for several years as a child. His older brother Leon was a well regarded local bandleader. Prima was proud of his heritage, and made a point of letting the audience know at every performance that he was Italian-American and from New Orleans. His singing and playing showed that he absorbed many of the same influences as his fellow Crescent City musician, Louis Armstrong, particularly in his hoarse voice and scat singing.

In his youth, Prima played trumpet with Irving Fazola, his brother's band, and the pit band of the Saenger Theater. In 1933 he began his busy recording career, as part of the David Rose orchestra at station WGN, Chicago; he was also part of the small recording group The Hotcha Trio, with Rose on piano and Norman Gast on violin. In 1934 Prima moved to New York, working regularly on 52nd Street with old New Orleans friends like Eddie Miller (tenor sax and clarinet) and George Brunies (trombone), and also new acquaintances like Pee Wee Russell (clarinet). Prima's informal jazz group was known as Louis Prima and His New Orleans Gang, and this band recorded prolifically for Brunswick through 1936, and then for Vocalion and Decca.

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