That Old Black Magic: Louis Prima, Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Las Vegas

Tom Clavin, Chicago Review, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-55652-821-7
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.)
Reviewed on: 09/13/2010
Release date: 11/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 246 pages - 978-1-56976-811-2
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-56976-813-6
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-8591-3
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