Being a huge fan of swing, jazz and big band music, I was happy to find this man roaming around on social media, who happens to be the son of one of my favorite entertainers of all time, Louis Prima. Let me introduce you to Louis Prima, Jr.
Q: Growing up with a father, who happens to be a legendary New Orleans jazz & big band swing musician, did you feel any pressure to follow in his footsteps as a young child?
A: No actually.. We were taught music, piano and such, but there was no pressure put upon us to pursue music as a career.. I didn’t pick up trumpet until 8th grade & when I finally graduated high school, my college schedule was geared towards business. A music career happened kind of by accident.
Q: Did picking up an instrument come naturally to you or did you have to work at it? How many instruments can you actually play?
A: Well, my mom put drum sticks in my hands at age 5 and piano followed by the 1st grade. I’ve played or tried to play just about everything; guitar, bass, sax, clarinet, most brass…. Was it easy? No, not at all. Matter of fact, the reason I didn’t immediately go into the music biz, well.. I am pretty severely dyslexic. I was tested entering college and didn’t know it until then. It posed a lot of struggles especially when it came to improvise or playing solos. I worked really hard at it and had some AMAZING instructors but my fingers would never do what my brain was telling it. Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty good and people do compliment me but I just never felt as if I was going to be the “Eddie Van Halen” of any instruments I touched. And when I do something, I want to be the best. (I know, sounds kind of bad) but it wasn’t until I had a microphone in my hand and was the “front man” that I felt comfortable and able to excel.
Q: You’ve lived in New Orleans and Vegas while growing up…How do the two cities differ in your eyes, in terms of the music scene, then and now?
A: I’m back in New Orleans mostly because Vegas changed. and not for the good. New Orleans is brilliant when it comes to music. Better than any other city. The music scene is diverse and plentiful. There is something going on every day, all day…musically speaking. There are no shortage of festivals. And there is no shortage of TALENTED musicians, performers, bands, people willing to teach. Music is this city’s soul and the entertainment community rallies around each other and embrace its history. Vegas.. not so much.. it all started to change in the 90’s maybe before when the musicians’ union lost the fight against canned music. There is a group of people and bands that work all the time, for years, the same people. They make no room for new bands or original ideas. Locals don’t support live music AT ALL. “Sorry I didn’t make your gig” is the most commonly heard phrase in the music community. If the crowd can’t get wasted and dance topless while paying $50 for a glass of water, you won’t work. And people won’t come to see you. Local music and bands are relegated to dive bars. And headliners now… I mean it’s like $300 plus for many of the shows. Out of control.. Look, I know that sounds bitter, but we are talking about a town that was RICH in entertainment.. it was The Hollywood playground where people launched careers, made names for themselves and worked every day. Now musicians have to take 5 gigs a DAY just to make it. But every piece of history in Vegas gets torn down. There is no history left and there is no effort to sustain or honor its past. It is sad, but I’ve been trying to leave for years. It has always surprised people when I say that I never work in Vegas. I have a 10 piece band that tours the world non stop for over 14 years (before COVID) but Vegas wants to pay $1000 or less. Now let’s split that up between agents, managers, travel, rooms and 12 people….
Q: There was a time in your life when you quit music and went into business management but was short lived. Why did you eventually get back into the music business?
A: I quit and went into management because I became very frustrated with the music business, and at the time was starting a family. I had to step away and raise my children. And that became the focus..I never really quit the business.. I did a gig here and there and knew that one day I’d step back in. I raised two boys by myself and I at least wanted them to be able to care for each other before I decided to hit the road again. Timing is everything.. At about the time I was souring on my work place, an opportunity arose in Vegas to put a “Louis Prima” style act in a MAJOR lounge. Although it never came to be, it started me rolling again.
Q: Here you are now, with your current band, Louis Prima Jr & The Witnesses.. you released your debut album in 2012, in the style of big band swing and even included some of your father’s classics like, “I Wanna Be Like You”…but I really enjoyed the music of “Oh Babe”. What was it like to finally release this album?
Q: You know, my father wrote Oh Babe! Certain musicians are content on doing their gig, reading their charts and collecting their pay. And there is nothing wrong with that. BUT I am NOT that guy. My goal has always to be able to create music that people could love. The goal in starting this band was to use my father’s music as a jumping point to create anew in his style, which to me is Rock n Roll with horns.. The goal was was always to relate to music and tour, it was never to be a tribute act. And the goal since day one way back in the 80’s, was to have a record label believe in you and put you in the studio. You know, not release my stuff and see it out of my garage… Anyway, once I found musicians with a like mind, we had to have a starting point and at the risk of sounding bad here; get the “Prima Sr” stuff out of the way. We actually found funding and recorded the first album ourselves but isn’t he process met Jim Ervin from Warrior Records who took a liking to us and took over the distribution etc. who would’ve thought that I’d be in my 40’s when I got that elusive deal! It’s been an amazing journey to get there, and an even better once since!
Q: Blow was released in 2014 & this is just another great album., Tell me more about your band The Witnesses… watching some of your video performances, it really looks like the band is having a great time onstage.
A: BLOW is step two in the process of getting our vision out there. I feel like we are doing with horns, what no one else is doing, it’s uptempo, brash, boisterous, loud and makes you want to dance. And for me, that is golden. Warrior put us in Capitol Records to record this, in the same room my father created most of his mid 50’s era gems. So it was magical for me AND the band. Finding this band was a labor of love and came kind of easy actually. I knew that I wanted Stars, Performers, Brilliant musicians all rolled into one. ALL of them fans of Prima and STUDIED fans of Prima. They know what it is to play and perform to the standard that I set for myself, and they do it every single show. The music is written by myself, Marco Palos (sax), Ryan McKay (guitar) and AD Adams (drums). Together we have over 200 years of musical experience, likes and dislikes. And when you put them altogether, I think we end up with a sound that is uniquely ours…it’s a Prima…but it’s primarily Prima Jr. There have been personnel changes along the way as is expected. The road isn’t for everyone and sometimes changes need to be made. But each and every person I share a stage with and HAVE shared a stage with give it all EVERY time they hit the stage, and it has been nothing but 100% friendship and love on the sidelines..
Q: Flash forward to the past year, 2020, and it has been a nightmare especially for the music industry… artists have had to change the way they bring music back to their fans, whether it was IG Live, Bandcamp, YouTube or other means of live-streaming… What are some ways you and the band have been keeping up with your fans?
A: Nightmare is an understatement. We had just finished recording album number 3 and were at early stages of a 120 date supporting tour when it all crashed. Album on the shelf; and haven’t worked for 13 months and counting.. I’ve been doing my best to stay connected with our fans though posts on social media etc…But we have not entered the world of show streaming or doing online events. Without going into the many reasons why we haven’t, I will merely say that these “live events” are going to be detrimental in the long run. It’s the consensus of everyone involved in my organization so we have shied away from it. The other side is that we are a 10 piece band with many working parts behind the scenes. We all live in 9 different cities. The coordination and cost involved in putting something together would have by FAR sped past the potential income. And let’s be honest, we don’t this for free, And quite frankly, no matter what we do, on tape or video, we can NEVER fully capture the live experience of one of our shows. You can ask any of our fans and they will tell you the same thing. So it’s been a waiting game.
Q: I see you have some shows scheduled this year, first one on May 12th, at The Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland, OH. Is this a definite?
A: Music Box has already been moved to September. And it looks like July, August, September before we are able to play. The world is starting to open up, but unfortunately, the powers that be have deemed “enjoying a live show” as STILL the big spreader. So we wait.. We are all very anxious to get back on the road. We miss it, we miss performing and we miss out fans.
Q: Where can fans find your music?
A: Anywhere music is sold! http://www.louisprimajr.com for links etc!!
Thanks for that great interview!! I’m hoping to take a trip out the Music Box sometime in the near future..
Be on the lookout for more great interviews with Air Traffic Controller, Nova Rose, Q-Tip Bandits plus many more.
Until then, I’m Your Music Stylist.