1958 Louis Prima and Keely Smith – That Old Black Magic
Louis Prima grew up in New Orleans with parents of Italian descent. He began playing the cornet in high school. Early on, he decided to become a professional musician and began playing the trumpet and singing.
Louis formed his own band and began playing in clubs and started recording music in 1934.
By 1947, Louis and his band had scored five singles that reached the top forty. In 1948, he hired twenty-year-old Keely Smith as the new female singer for his band. They reached #12 on the top forty in 1952 with their recording of Oh Babe.
In 1953, Louis divorced his third wife and he married Keely less than a month later. He then relocated to Las Vegas with a smaller band and began headlining at the Sahara.
The first cut on his 1956 album was a medley of two older songs: Just a Gigolo (a song that was featured in a Betty Boop cartoon in 1931) and I Ain’t Got Nobody (a song from 1915). Louis had been performing the two songs together since 1945 and created a more modern styling for his Vegas show. The pairing became his best-known piece of music; David Lee Roth covered the medley in 1985 and reached #12 on the Hot 100.
They nominated Keely for a Grammy in 1957 for her performance of I Wish You Love.
The next year, she sang a duet with Frank Sinatra. Their single of How Are Ya’ Fixed For Love? peaked at #22 on the Hot 100.
Later that year, she recorded a duet with her husband, covering the 1942 standard Old Black Magic. The single reached #18 on the Hot 100.
Listening to the song is nothing like watching a performance by the duo. They appeared on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (probably the episode on April 5, 1959) and sang live with a live orchestra.
The pair had two more records on the Hot 100 in 1959 that both missed the top forty. Louis and Keely divorced in 1961.
Louis hit the top forty one more time with a solo recording. His version of Wonderland By Night was eclipsed by Bert Kaempfert’s single, but still managed to reach #15 on the Hot 100 in 1961.
Keely released an album of Beatles’ songs in 1965 and had a few hits in the UK. She returned to recording and performing live in 1985 and continued recording albums through 1985.
Louis died in 1975, and Keely died in 2017.
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