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Magazine » September October 2012 Issue » Louis Prima Jr. Carries on the Legacy

Louis Prima Jr. Carries on the Legacy

Jack Lebo
Date Published:
August 31, 2012

Louis Prima Jr. carries on the legacy and standards of the music his father made famous. His dad, known as the original "King of Swing," started his career during the 1930's. He was the innovator. With his distinguished sound and boisterous presence, Prima Sr. made history in the theatres, breaking house records wherever he performed. Despite making an indelible musical mark from his New Orleans roots in the 30's, throughout the big band era, and even penning the first song inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, Sing, Sing, Sing, it was in Las Vegas where Louis Prima is best known.

Louis Prima and the Witnesses became a legendary landmark during the 50's, 60's and 70's. Audiences from everywhere had come to witness this most-talked-about attraction. Like many "high rollers," and celebrities, even the famed "Rat Pack" was spotted at the wildest show on the Vegas strip. Louis Sr.'s performances encompassed all the styles of music, as long as it swung hard and fast. He used styles from New Orleans-style jazz, Boogie Woogie, Swing, Blues, Big Band and early Rock & Roll.He created his own sound and transformed it into magic, with hits like, Jump, Jive and Wail, Just a Gigolo, Old Black Magic, Buona Sera and When You're Smiling. He was the "Big Daddy" of them all. His musical legacy continues to be long lasting, even to this day as covers of his classics became modern-days hits for David Lee Roth, Reba McIntyre and bandleader Brian Setzer.

In 1965, Gia Maione, Prima's singing partner and wife, gave birth to Louis' only son, Prima Jr. Louis Jr. began his musical career with drums at the age of five and then moved onto piano. By age eight, he became a virtuoso of all musical instruments including trumpet and guitar. Throughout Jr. and Senior High Schools, Prima Jr. performed in Jazz and Classical bands. Following graduation, he decided to stray away from his musical roots and pursue a career in management, but that was short-lived. At age twenty-two, Louis Jr. got the bug back. "After singing several times with my sister, Lena and the Witnesses, I had to return," explains Louis. In 1995, following a number of years of leading a rock group, Louis decided to go back to his roots–his dad's music.

Enlisting his sister and the musical direction of Prima Sr.'s old B-3 player, they formed a tribute to his father's popular Vegas show. Almost a decade since then, Louis Jr. was approached by a long-time friend, John Scaglione. Talking about old Las Vegas glamour and entertainment, Scaglione asked Louis what it would take to return to the stage and recreate the legendary show. This would be a recreation, not just a tribute show. The time was right for it, so Louis Jr. formed an 8-piece group including three horns. The 90-minute show features a variety of his father's famous songs and they became an immediate hit. Many fans and music critics remarked how much Louis Jr. moves and sounds like his dad when on stage. The group recently performed at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans to sellout crowds, and is now very much in demand. Louis Prima lives again in the person of his talented offspring, Louis Prima Jr.!