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That Old Black Magic: Louis Prima, Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Las Vegas Hardcover – November 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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.) (c)
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"Clavin has produced an easy read that is informative, entertaining and enlightening . . . makes a valuable contribution to the world's body of knowledge about one of the greatest entertainers of all time." NewOrleans.com
"Crisply written and engaging." PopMatters
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The point I agreed with the most was that Louis,Keely and Sam Butera with the Witnesses had one thing in mind when performing. Giving 110% of the their energy to the performance and with the aim to make people happy!!! This comes across time and time again in the pages of the book.
If you are a Louis and Keely fan and love that time period of the growth of Las Vegas you will really enjoy this read!!!
Keely now at 83 still performs with the Jive Aces (Britain's top jive and swing combo) when she visits the United Kingdom each summer.
When Keely Smith came along, not only did the music get to the top of the curve, but the way Prima's womanizing was kept in reins for some time was also very interesting to read. It finally broke through, and the dream couple went their separate ways, but it is always amazing to read such a well-written, detailed, and complete account of the lives of celebrities. They are human, after all, with all the failings and problems we all have.
This merits 4 stars, because it could have been tightened a little, but even as it is, it is a very good book about the pair whose music still has that black magic lure.
I liked the book a lot.