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That Old Black Magic: Louis Prima, Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Las Vegasby Tom Clavin
Synopses & Reviews
In 1948, New Orleans veteran trumpeter and singer Louis Prima stumbled into a young girl named Keely Smith. She was barely a performer at all, almost half his age, destined for a relatively quiet life; their encounter was pure coincidence. But they went on to invent The Wildest,” the most exciting and successful lounge act Las Vegas has ever seen, an act that became one of the hottest in the U.S. in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their records were hugely popular, and they were courted by Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Robert Mitchum, and other well-known entertainers of the day. Their professional success helped bring about the rise of Las Vegas as a mecca of American entertainment. Their love story ended soon after they helped usher in John F. Kennedys presidency--singing That Old Black Magic” for him at his inauguration--but their influence is still evident. And Keely still draws SRO audiences to her nightclub appearances.
Now, on the occasion of Louis Primas 100th birthday, comes the first book on this duo, illustrating not only one of show businesss greatest love stories but also the Vegas milieu in which they reached the pinnacle of their success.
"Clavin (Halsey's Typhoon) commemorates the centennial of trumpeter Louis Prima's birth with an entertaining biography of the bandleader's colorful life, music, and marriages--especially his union with fourth wife, singer Keely Smith, 18 years his junior. In the Vegas of the early 1950s and '60s, Prima and Smith's raucous all-night lounge act, nicknamed 'The Wildest,' thrilled both tourists and celebrities with an energetic mix of Dixieland, swing, rock, and off-color humor. Clavin brings the stage act to life, ably evoking the Vegas lifestyle it helped popularize. Through anecdotes, pop criticism, and comments from print and video sources as well as original interviews, the complex Vegas backstory of racism, gangsters, the Rat Pack, and Howard Hughes is palpable. Not so the Primas' offstage existence, the descriptions of which are surprisingly flavorless. After tracing Prima's musical fortunes from his New Orleans roots through gigs at Manhattan's famed 52nd Street jazz clubs to his reign at the Casbar Lounge of the Sahara Hotel, Clavin portrays Prima's relationship to the alluring Cherokee-Irish Smith as a bit of musical luck that turned romantic, until their divorce in 1961. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Tom Clavin is the author/coauthor of ten books, including Roger Maris, The Last Stand of Fox Company, and Halseys Typhoon. His articles have appeared in Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Mens Journal, Parade, Readers Digest, and others. He was a contributing reporter for the New York Times for 15 years.
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