Hollywood, Calif. – Louis Prima must have been smiling in heaven as his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unveiled Sunday, on what would have been the iconic King of Swing’s 100th birthday.
Set amidst the bustling backdrop of the Ricardo Montalban Theater on Hollywood and Vine, the unabashed spirit of Prima shook the pavement as the late jazz singer’s son, Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses – and the lovely Sarah Spiegel dazzled the crowd with such familiar ballads as “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Buona Sera, Zooma-Zooma,” “Jump,Jive And Wail.” Prima’s children, Louis Prima Jr. and Lena Prima accepted the Star on behalf of their legendary father.
The late Prima’s centennial star unveiling coincided with the day-long “Walk the Walk” Community Festival in Hollywood Honoring the Hollywood Walk Of Fame’s 50th Anniversary.
Louis Prima remains one of the greatest contributors to popular music and a powerful entertainment influence during the past eight decades.
Pictured above, Louis Prima Jr. poses by his father’s star and trumpet on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star unveiling was held in conjunction with the Hollywood Walk of Fame’s 50th anniversary and in commemoration of what would have been Louis Prima’s 100th birthday. (Photo by Margie Anne Clark, Los Angeles Life and Style/City Life Communications.)
A new era of music began when Louis left his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana and launched his recording career in 1933 in Chicago with upbeat renditions of Dinah and Chinatown. He defined the early Swing Era in New York and Hollywood with his New Orleans Gang and had an incredible output of recordings and appearances in films and on stage between 1934-39.
The Prima recordings of It’s The Rhythm In Me, Lazy River, and his own immortal composition Sing, Sing, Sing (also a Benny Goodman hit) had legions of fans swing dancing from The Famous Door on 52nd Street in New York to the hottest spots in Hollywood. The swing trend escalated and grew thanks to Prima’s driving force. His music skyrocketed in popularity, eventually surpassing the sales of the number one band at the time, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Louis and his twenty-two piece orchestra scored a tremendous hit in 1944 with a million-seller entitled Angelina.
He topped the charts throughout the Big Band Era with Majestic, Hit, RCA, and Robin Hood label recordings of Robin Hood, I’ll Walk Alone, Josephina, Please No Squeeza Da Banana, Baciagaloop, Felicia No Capicia, Civilization, Oh Babe, and many others.
The King of Swing made entertainment history during this time, breaking all house attendance records wherever he performed across the nation.
During the golden age of jazz, Prima composed A Sunday Kind of Love in 1946, and the song became a hit during four decades and six different musical genres including Swing, Doo-Wop, Rock & Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Jazz, and Country! The song would appear on the charts for many other prominent artists who also recorded this Prima standard.
With his musical comedic flair, Prima was one of the founding fathers of the Las Vegas entertainment scene. He downsized his big band in 1954, and created a small group that he named The Witnesses. Prima’s shuffle beat, combined with New Orleans Jazz, was a predecessor to what became the Rock & Roll sound of the 1950s.
The string of hits on Capitol Records that followed included ‘Just a Gigolo,/I Ain’t Got Nobody, ‘Buona Sera, Zooma-Zooma, Jump,Jive, And Wail, When You’re Smiling,’ and many others. Louis was also awarded the first Grammy award in the Vocal Group category for his knockout rendition of ‘That Old Black Magic’ with Keely Smith and Sam Butera & The Witnesses in 1958.
In 1963, he fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams: Prima Magnagroove Records, his own recording studio and record company. He would record for his Prima Label from 1963 through 1975.
During his five decade career, Louis Prima recorded almost one thousand individual recordings released on 26 different labels.
Louis provided the voice of King Louie in the award-winning Disney production of The Jungle Book in 1966.The film was nominated for an Oscar, and Louis received a gold album for the soundtrack recording.
Louis Prima continued to break attendance records at The Sahara Hotel, The Sands Hotel, The Hilton and Tropicana Hotels in Las Vegas, Harrah’s Reno and Lake Tahoe, The Copacabana in New York, and prominent venues throughout the country during the 1960s and 1970s.
He also appeared constantly on every mainstream television show including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, The Joey Bishop Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Dean Martin Show, The David Frost Show, and many others. His final musical projects were uncompleted score and dialogue sessions for the Disney film The Rescuers.
The diagnosis of a benign brain tumor in late 1975 promptly halted his very active recording and performance schedules. The surgery that followed would send Louis into a semi-comatose state until his death in 1978.
His legend and music live on in full force. Louis’ award winning composition Sing, Sing, Sing was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1982. ASCAP posthumously awarded Louis their prestigious Songwriter’s Award for A Sunday Kind Of Love in 1989. Artists as diverse as David Lee Roth, Reba McEntire and Brian Setzer would bring Prima’s music to the top of the charts in the 80s and 90s.
In 1998 The Gap stores brought Louis to the attention of a new generation with their television commercial featuring a song that Louis wrote and recorded entitled ‘Jump, Jive an’ Wail.’
Popular modern performers such as Jessica Simpson, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Royal Crown Revue and many others have constantly covered Louis’ music.
His ground-breaking Capitol album, The Wildest, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. The Louis Prima Capitol Collectors Series compilation CD was certified gold by the RIAA and his Live From Las Vegas CD landed on the Billboard Top Jazz Album chart in 2005.
The Louis Prima Centennial Celebration is underway throughout the year of 2010 for the millions of Prima fans at special events spanning the globe, on radio stations around the world, and online.
This landmark year also brings several special honors recognizing Louis Prima for his many entertainment contributions along with his music featured in the 2010 Olympics, in several major motion pictures, television shows, commercials and video games!
Special commemorative editions of the classic and exclusive Prima Label recordings by Louis Prima now available on remastered compact discs at www.LouisPrima.com. Louis Prima, Jr. and Lena Prima continue to perpetuate their father’s grand tradition of exhilarating live performances, thrilling standing-room-only audiences from coast to coast.
For more information about Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses visit:http://louisprimajr.com/review/late-king-of-swing-louis-prima-honored-on-hollywoods-walk-of-fame/
For information on the “Walk the Walk” festival and other 50th Anniversary celebrations visit www.WalkofFame50.com.