|This is the first paperback edition of the only biography of Louis Prima, one of the most under-rated jazz musicians and entertainers of the twentieth century.|
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 protege 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 longstanding 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.
Born into an Italian immigrant family in New Orleans in 1910, Louis Prima's four-decade career spanned the birth of both Dixieland jazz and rock & roll. Primarily an old-world entertainer transplanted into a New World milieu, Prima blended the music hall humor of big gestures and broad strokes with a natural affinity for jazz swing. His incorrigibly roguish yet lovable onstage personality, combined with his band's big, brash sound, proved irresistible to audiences, and his recordings generated a similar effect. As New Orleans native Garry Boulard shows in LOUIS PRIMA, his biography of the star, a combination of artistic restlessness and musical flexibility found Prima crossing over from jazz to rock & roll with ease. His 1950s partnership with Keely Smith, whom he married but later divorced, garnered a string of hits, while his later career received a boost from his performance as King Louie in Walt Disney's 1967 feature-length cartoon, THE JUNGLE BOOK. Boulard's painstakingly researched, authoritative portrait of the colorful, much-married singer and bandleader blends insight and atmospheric detail in a richly evocative account of the artist's life.