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University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Libraries

OtlSlXi; ?√ß {0&3X; NIGHT MAYER THE LEGEND OF PRIMA By KEN MAYER No three decades in the history of music have spawned the number of melodic greats as has the period from 1935 to today. Not least among the greats was Louis Prima. Prima, more than a contributor to modern music, is more often mentioned as a pioneer, setting trends that led to the establishment of other artists and their styles. This trumpet virtuoso is truly a pied piper who has led countless performing artists toward a destiny with acclamation. Our story begins in a narrow strip of niteries on 52nd Street between Broadway and Fifth, which was at one time to New York City what Basin Street is to New Orleans. Asleep by day, this neon artery of Gotham's nocturnal heart came alive at dusk and pulsated vibrantly until a tired dawn rang its curfew. This was the strip known as Swing Street and among its tenants were the posh sunsetters that were a city unto themselves. From Leon and Eddie's to the Famous Door, 52nd Street glowed alive. HERE IT WAS that the Prima presence was noticed. Louis had a sound all his own, and he shared it with those fortunate enough to come within its range. His club, though small, became the high temple of swing, his worshipers became fanatics. His training ground in New Orleans had served the pupil well and;now the pupil was teaching others. I A radio show on a national network was the next rung on the ladder. Prima mounted it with ease. In no time at all, he was America's favorite. His composer's pen was never idle, and from its prolific scribblings came the trade- marks that would establish others, not least of them, Goodman himself. Benny recorded a Prima composition, ?╟úSing Sing Sing," and with the waxing were created other giants. Harry James, Gene Krupa and Ziggy Elman were but a few who rushed in when the gates of fame were opened, and Louis spread them wide. From the genius of Prima, the mastery of Goodman took root, and from the merging of the two, the era of swing was born. Entertainment was more than ready for the offspring. SHORT YEARS LATER, Louis augmented his group to include 22 pieces of sound. He hit the big one with "Angelina." Such was the acceptance of this novelty, that he shortly struck gold again with "Josephina Please No Leana on Da Bell," and "Please No Squeeza De Banana," and without intending it, he opened the floodgates to the Italian influence'. Hairdos?╟╓, dresses, suits, etc., bearing the old-country stylings became the vogue, and lesser-known singers of Italian extraction began to gain recognition. Perry Como, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, etc., are to this day grateful to Louis' "accident," and Dean Martin and Buddy Greco add "Amen." Prima's invasion of the musical scene was complete, and from hotels to theaters, both white and Negro, none v/as immune from its influence. Louis was a restless artist and could breach little idleness in even entertainment's transitory periods. In fact, these were the times he was most creative. #################