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“THE INAUGURATION OF SOME OLD BLACK MAGICRICH BUCKLAND’S EPIPHANY NOTEBOOK Few Las Vegas acts of the 50’s were received with the feverish passion of a musical merge known as Louis Prima and Keely Smith. Backed by the imperial sound of Sam Butera and The Witnesses, this team fused Jazz, Boogie Woogie, Rhythm and Blues and even Rock and Roll into an entertainment dimension previously unseen or heard. Their eight year run at The Sahara Hotel’s Casbar Lounge in Las Vegas is a celebrated episode in show biz lore and creative individuality. Those were the days when “The Boys” ran the show in Lost Wages, Nevada and there was a bona fide bang in the early morning saloon air. “Seeing Louis Prima and Keely Smith was an event — I’m talking about a show where they started serving a breakfast buffet at the side of the lounge at 2:15 in the morning,” says legendary Las Vegas comic Pete Barbutti. Frank Sinatra was a huge fan of the team and introduced them to a celebrity of an entirely different dimension. His name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. JFK took such a liking to the act that he suggested that they perform at his pre-Inaugural Ball that also served as a Democratic Party fund raiser. The program was a smash. On Jan 19, 1961 at the DC Armory, Prima and Smith accompanied names such as Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Durante, Gene Kelly, Harry Belafonte and Frank himself at one of the biggest parties Washington had ever seen. “That Old Black Magic” had cast its spell and the duo many called “The Heppest Of The Hep”, contributed to the uncommon magnetism of the moment. It served as their final declaration as a duo. Louis Leo Prima and Dorothy Jacqueline Keely were a martial and show business unit from 1953 until 1961. Shortly before his death in 2009, Sam Butera, the tenor saxophone heart of their band summed up the dynamic they composed. “The whole thing is entertainment, man,” Butera told a reporter. “I learned that from them. You can get up on stage, do all the singing and talking you want, but if you don’t know how to laugh and get happy with the people, it’s nothing.” Louis Prima and Keely Smith left us a blueprint in the art of how to make people jubilant and joyous. Thank you for the magic.

By Rich Buckland 03/01/2020 01:59 AM

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