Las Vegas legend Keely Smith, 89, died Saturday in Palm Springs
December 18, 2017 12:12 PM
by Robert Mann
Las Vegas legend Keely Smith, 89, died Saturday in Palm Springs of heart failure after a long period of deteriorating health. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Smith is widely regarded as one of the greatest pop/jazz singers ever, winning the first Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1959 with her late first husband Louis Prima for “That Old Black Magic,” a tuneful mid-tempo ballad.
Many believe Smith and Prima invented the Las Vegas lounge act, until recent times an entertainment staple of the Las Vegas Strip.
Smith also had a major influence on the rock generation with Brian Setzer’s recording of the Smith/Prima hit “Jump, Jive an' Wail” and David Lee Roth’s version of “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody.”
Those who chronicle the music scene note that Cher seemed to “borrow” heavily from Smith’s deadpan act with Prima and later with tenor saxophone player Sam Butera, when the pop diva was the young singing partner of the late Sonny Bono.
She received another Grammy nomination for her 2001 CD, “Keely Sings Sinatra,” which she recorded with Sinatra’s blessing before his passing in 1998.
In addition to her membership in the Las Vegas Hall of Fame, Smith has stars on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars (at 111 S. Palm Canyon Drive) and the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 7080 Hollywood Blvd.)
Her daughters, Toni Prima of Palm Springs and Luanne Prima of Los Angeles, survive her.