September 22, 2011

The ASCAP Foundation Louis Prima Award

Louis Prima

Louis Prima

The ASCAP Foundation is pleased to announce that Gia Prima and her friends and long-time Counsel at Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP have established The ASCAP Foundation Louis Prima Award to be presented to a talented vocalist or musician attending the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. The inaugural award will be presented at The ASCAP Foundation Awards ceremony in New York on December 7, 2011.

Louis Prima, born in the birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans, Louisiana on December 7, 1910, remains one of the greatest contributors to popular music and a powerful entertainment influence. The early Swing Era was marked by Prima's incredible output of compositions and recordings between 1933-39. 1936 was the landmark year in which Louis composed the words and music to "Sing, Sing, Sing," initially for his friend Bing Crosby. The song would become an immortal standard and signature song for Benny Goodman and his Orchestra. It has been covered by a vast array of popular artists and featured in films and shows continuously from 1936 through today. The song holds the distinction of being the most reproduced on sheet music.

Louis scored tremendous chart topping hits throughout the Big Band Era with several of his own compositions including "Oh, Marie," "Robin Hood," "Brooklyn Boogie," "Oh Babe,"and many others. Louis composed "A Sunday Kind of Love" in 1946, and the song became a hit over four decades and in six different musical genres including Swing, Doo-Wop, Rock & Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Jazz, and Country! "A Sunday Kind of Love" charted for Claude Thornhill and His Orchestra with Fran Warren in 1946, The Harptones in 1953, The Del Vikings in 1957, Etta James in 1961, Jan & Dean in 1962, and Reba McEntire in 1988. Ella Fitzgerald, Jo Stafford, Frankie Laine, and many other prominent artists also recorded this Prima standard.

One of the founding fathers of the Las Vegas entertainment scene, Louis downsized his big band in 1954 and created a small group that he named The Witnesses. Prima's shuffle beat, combined with New Orleans Jazz and the wailing sax sound of Sam Butera was a precursor of the Rock & Roll sound of the 1950's. The string of popular favorites he recorded for Capitol, Dot, and his own Prima Label included many of his own compositions such as "Jump, Jive, 'An Wail," "Banana Split For My Baby," "Oh, Marie," and many more. Louis was awarded the first Grammy award in the Vocal Group category for his knockout rendition of "That Old Black Magic" in 1958. Louis' award winning composition "Sing, Sing, Sing" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1982.

Artists as diverse as David Lee Roth and Brian Setzer would bring Prima's music to the top of the charts in the 80's and 90's. The music was at the center of successful advertising campaigns through the 2000's for The Gap, Nike, Diet Coke, Fiat and as recent as 2011 for General Electric.

Louis Prima passed away on August 24, 1978. His tomb, located in Lakelawn Cemetery in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana contains an inscription of Irving Caesar's lyrics to his immortal signature song "Just a Gigolo": "When the end comes, I know they'll say Just a Gigolo, as life goes on without me".