The Louis Prima collection is open for research at Tulane University Special Collections
The Hogan Archive of New Orleans Music and New Orleans Jazz, a unit of Tulane University Special Collections (TUSC), is pleased to announce that the Louis Prima collection is fully processed and open to researchers.
The Prima collection is 38.92 linear feet, and includes personal papers, business papers, correspondence, sheet music, photographs, publicity materials, ephemera, and audiovisual materials related to the influential Italian American musician and recording artist. Items span Prima’s life and career, beginning with his childhood in New Orleans, where he was born in 1910; his activities in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and elsewhere; and his cultural influence in the years following his death in 1978. The collection also includes materials related to Prima’s musical collaborators Sam Butera, Gia Maione, and Keely Smith; and documents the life of vocalist Gia Maione Prima and her 1960s and 1970s work with Louis Prima, who she would marry in 1963.
Louis Prima’s entertainment career spanned five decades, and encompassed music writing and performance, motion pictures, and pioneering recording industry practices as a bandleader and record label owner. With trumpet and vocals being his primary instruments, he cited Louis Armstrong as an influence, and became a leading ambassador of New Orleans jazz beginning in the 1930s, and a popular Las Vegas headliner beginning in the 1950s. Walt Disney Pictures based its 1967 Oscar-nominated, animated film, The Jungle Book, on Prima, who provided his voice for the character of orangutan “King Louis.” He was the first New Orleanian to win a GRAMMY, awarded during the Recording Academy’s first ceremony in 1959, and given in the Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus category for Louis Prima & Keely Smith’s version of “That Old Black Magic.”
The Gia Maione Prima Foundation donated the collection to Tulane University Special Collections in 2017. TUSC also maintains the Louis Prima Room, a classroom dedicated to special collections instruction.
The Louis Prima collection (HJA-041) is available for public research, and can be accessed via appointment at Tulane University Special Collections, located in Jones Hall on the uptown campus of Tulane University.
For more information, contact Hogan Archive curator Melissa A. Weber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504-247-1807. To learn more about Tulane University Special Collections, visit the TUSC website at library.tulane.edu/tusc, email email@example.com, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Published March 21, 2023
Photo caption: L. to r.: Louis Prima, Gia Maione Prima, Frank Sinatra, Las Vegas, circa 1960s, venue and photographer unidentified, Louis Prima collection, HJA-041, Tulane University Special Collections.