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|Birth name||Dorothy Jacqueline Keely|
March 9, 1932 |
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
|Genres||Jazz, vocal jazz, pop|
|Associated acts||Louis Prima|
Keely Smith (born Dorothy Jacqueline Keely, March 9, 1932) is an American jazz singer who spent much of her career with Louis Prima.
Smith showed a natural aptitude for singing at a young age. At fourteen, she sang with a naval air station band led by Saxie Dowell. At fifteen, she got her first paying job with the Earl Bennett band.
She saw Louis Prima perform in New York City in 1949. When he came through Norfolk, Virginia, she auditioned. She became the calm balance to Prima's wild antics, as he made his way through a repertoire of jump blues, jazz, and Italian pop songs. They recorded together in 1949 and married in 1953.
Their songs included Johnny Mercer's and Harold Arlen's "That Ol' Black Magic", which was a Top 20 hit in the US in 1958. In 1959, Smith and Prima won the first Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group for "That Ol' Black Magic". Her deadpan act was popular with fans. The duo followed up with the minor successes "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen", a revival of the 1937 Andrews Sisters hit. Smith and Prima's act was a mainstay of the Las Vegas lounge scene for much of the 1950s. Though her actual voice was not used, she was caricatured as "Squealy Smith" in Bob Clampett's 1960 Beany and Cecil episode "So What and the Seven Whatnots," a Snow White spoof in a Vegas setting.
Smith appeared with Prima in the 1959 film, Hey Boy! Hey Girl!, singing "Fever", and also appeared in and sang on the soundtrack of the previous year's Thunder Road. Her song in Thunder Road was "Whippoorwill". Her first big solo hit was "I Wish You Love" in 1957. In 1961, Smith divorced Prima. She then signed with Reprise Records, where her musical director was Nelson Riddle. In 1965, she had Top 20 hits in the United Kingdom with an album of Beatles compositions, and a single, "You're Breaking My Heart" which reached No. 14 in April.
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