As the vocal foil (and wife) of Louis Prima, Keely Smith became an iconic presence in American pop culture in the 1950s, and she had a long solo career following her parting with Prima. Born Dorothy Keely on March 9, 1928 in Norfolk, Virginia, she started singing while still a teenager. Prima, who was 18 years her senior, had already been performing since the '30s and had become successful fronting a jazz/pop big band by the time Smith starting singing with him in 1949. Just weeks after Prima's 1953 divorce from his third wife, he and Smith were married. In the mid '50s, Prima retooled his style, paring down to a small-band format with saxophonist Sam Butera as bandleader, and shifting to a more raucous style informed by R&B and rock 'n' roll. Smith's ultra-cool delivery and onstage demeanor proved to be the perfect contrast for her husband's effervescent, outsized approach, and with Sam Butera & The Witnesses backing them, Prima and Smith became one of the biggest acts in the country. The 1956 album The Wildest, recorded at Las Vegas's Sahara Hotel and Casino, was the one that launched their breakout success and became a milestone release, featuring much-covered classics like "Jump, Jive an' Wail" and "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody (and Nobody Cares for Me)." In 1957 Smith released her first solo album, I Wish You Love, and continued putting out solo LPs at a steady clip all through her busy career with Prima. In 1962 Smith and Prima divorced, ending their musical partnership as well. Keely continued her solo career, releasing several more albums for Dot and then Reprise, but after 1965 she didn't record again until 1985's I'm In Love Again. She retired from performing in 2011 and passed away on December 16, 2017 at the age of 89.
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Performed in a naval air station band led by Saxie Dowell at age 14
Had her first professional gig with the Earl Bennett band
First saw Louis Prima perform; the duo worked together later that year and were married four years later
Appeared in and sang in Robert Mitchum crime drama "Thunder Road"
Contributed music to husband Louis Prima's special "Hey Boy! Hey Girl!"
Her song "I Ain't Got Nobody" was featured in the Robert De Niro classic "Raging Bull"
Appeared on-screen in "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project"