Friday, March 5, 2010

Louis Prima: Yes, We Have No Bananas

In my opinion, the best version of the song by the under-appreciated Louis Prima
from the official Louis Prima site
Of all the musical giants of the past seven decades, specifically since the days of the big swing bands and Dixieland jazz, there is one who stands out amongst them all as the greatest contributor towards modern music and the course it eventually took. His name is Louis Prima and it all started when he took off at the once-famed 52nd Street in New York City.
As a bold, talented, ambitious youngster, Prima rose from the rank-and-file of musicians in the now acknowledged great training ground of New Orleans in 1934 and headed for the "Big Time" in the city of New York. After a few weeks of waiting for the right opening, he was finally given the opportunity to debut at the then inconspicuous "Famous Door." By virtue of the Louis Prima Band becoming a smash hit in the small-but-jumping club, the entire 52nd Street, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, was renamed "Swing Street."
Thus, a whole new era of music began, with Louis coining such expressions as "swing" and other "hep" sayings like "solid jack," "crazy man," and many more. Later, it was decided to name Benny Goodman the King of Swing, but only as a result of a big hit on the song "Sing Sing Sing," written by Louis Prima - so what does that tell you?
The swing trend continued through the Prima drive. Then, when he received a contract for his band to play over CBS radio twice a week, swing was brought to everyone all over America. His music then started to top the sales of the then number one band, Guy Lombardo.
A few years passed and Louis hit again, this time with his twenty-two piece orchestra, on a now million seller "plus" titled, "Angelina." It started the whole country talking about pizza, veal parmegiana, pasta fagiole, and antipasto. These words were never before used in American life unless you happened to be a descendant of Italy. These songs picked up great momentum, with one smash after another, like, "Josephina," "Please No Squeeza Da Banana," "Bacciagaloop, Makes Love on the Stoop," "Felicia No Capicia," and on and on.
The year was 1944 and the Italian trend gained momentum. Through the next four years hair styles, dresses, suits, shoes, hats, etc. reflected Italian designers and all because of "Angelina." The door also opened for many great Italian singers such as Perry Como, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Buddy Greco, Phil Brito, Dean Martin, etc. The popular DJ of time, Martin Block, crowned Louis "The King" over the Dorsey's Woody Herman, Charlie Barnett, and others.
Louis made history in the theatres, breaking house records wherever he appeared. The Palace Theatre, Cleveland - The Metropolitan, Providence - The Earl, Philadelphia - The Adams, Newark - The Downtown, Detroit - The Oriental, Chicago. He appeared an unprecedented three times, in one year, at the greatest theatre of them all, The Paramount Theatre in New York City. Louis was welcomed with open arms at the famous black theatres of the time, such as The Royal Theatre, Baltimore - The Howard, Washington, D.C. and while performing there received a personal invitation to the White House by Mrs. Elenore Roosevelt, who came to see Louis and the Band. Also, The Regal, Chicago - The Paradise, Detroit, and last but not least, the famed Apollo Theatre in New York's Harlem.
Louis then introduced novelty songs into his format and scored some great hits with the likes of "Civilization" (The Thousand Island Song), "Oh Babe," of which there ten covers by other bands.

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