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Keely Smith

Keely Smith
Birth name Dorothy Jacqueline Keely
Born (1928-03-09) March 9, 1928
Origin Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Pop music
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Associated acts Louis Prima
Frank Sinatra

Keely Smith (born Dorothy Jacqueline Keely, March 9, 1928)[1] is an American jazz and popular music singer who enjoyed popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. She collaborated with, among others, Louis Prima and Frank Sinatra.


  • Career 1
  • Later career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Musical 4
  • Discography (solo) 5
  • Discography (others) 6
  • Film and television appearances 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Smith showed a natural aptitude for singing at a young age. At age 14, she started singing with a naval air station band led by Saxie Dowell. At 15, she got her first paying job with the Earl Bennett band.

Smith made her professional debut with Louis Prima in 1949 (the couple was married in 1953); Smith played the "straight guy" in the duo to Prima's wild antics and they recorded many duets. These include 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 were awarded the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus for "That Ol' Black Magic". Her "dead-pan" act was a hit 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.

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 #14 in April.[2] As of 2013, her Reprise recordings have never been made available on CD.

In 1985, she made a comeback with I'm In Love Again (Fantasy Records) . Her albums, Swing, Swing, Swing (2002), Keely Sings Sinatra (2001) for which she was Grammy nominated, and Keely Swings Count Basie Style with Strings (2002) garnered critical and fan acclaim.

In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.[3]

Later career

Smith released Vegas '58 – Today a compilation album of her best known songs, all recorded live. Smith has re-recorded a number of songs from her Prima years, including a modified version of "Oh Marie," which has been renamed "Oh Louis" in tribute. By her own admission, she has never had a singing lesson and cannot read music.

She works a light touring schedule. She was booked at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City in 2007. On February 10, 2008, Smith performed "That Old Black Magic" with Kid Rock at the 50th Grammy Awards. Smith also went on to influence Pop star Paloma Faith who at "Later at the Proms", the Guy Barker Orchestra and Miss Faith performed Smith's biggest hit All Night Long.

Personal life

Smith is of Irish and Native American ancestry.[4] She married Louis Prima in 1953; the couple divorced in 1961. The couple had two children: Toni Elizabeth and Luanne Francis.

In 1961, columnist Dorothy Kilgallen reported that Smith had dated and broken up with music executive Morris Levy.[5] In 1965, she married Jimmy Bowen. The couple divorced in 1969.[6]

Smith married singer Bobby Milano (real name Charles Caci) in 1975 in Palm Springs. Frank Sinatra gave the bride away.[7]

In 1986, Smith faced legal problems for failing to withhold employee personal income and disability insurance taxes in connection with vending companies she owned in Palm Springs, California.[8]


In 2008, Vanessa Claire Smith and Jake Broder wrote and starred in the new musical, Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara, which premiered at Los Angeles' Sacred Fools Theater Company and went on to be nominated for four Ovation Awards, including the Franklin R. Levy Award for Musical in an Intimate Theatre, which it won. Smith herself attended a performance.

Discography (solo)

  • I Wish You Love (1957, Capitol)
  • Politely! (1958, (Capitol)
  • Swinging’ Pretty (1959, Capitol)
  • Be My Love (1959, Dot)
  • Swing, You Lovers (1960, Dot)
  • A Keely Christmas (1960, Dot)
  • Keely (1961, Dot)
  • Dearly Beloved (1961, Dot)
  • Because You're Mine (1962, Dot)
  • Twist with Keely Smith (1962, Dot)
  • CheroKeely Swings! (1962, Dot)[9]
  • What Kind of Fool Am I? (1962, Dot)
  • Little Girl Blue, Little Girl New (1963, Reprise)
  • Sings the John Lennon-Paul McCartney Songbook (1964, Reprise)
  • The Intimate Keely Smith (1965, Reprise)
  • That Old Black Magic (1966, Reprise)
  • I'm In Love Again (1985, Fantasy)
  • Swing, Swing, Swing (2000, Concord)
  • Keely Sings Sinatra (2000, Concord)
  • Keely Swings Basie Style with Strings (2002, Concord)
  • Vegas '58 -- Today (2005, Concord)

Discography (others)


  • Thunder Road (1958)
  • Hey Boy! Hey Girl! (1959) Soundtrack album T-1160 (Capitol) US
  • Raging Bull (1980)
  • DTV: Golden Oldies (1984)
  • Mad Dog and Glory (1993)
  • Cobb (1994)
  • Destiny Turns on the Radio (1995)
  • Casino (1995)
  • Big Night (1996) Soundtrack CD TVT 8040-2 (TVT Soundtrax) US
  • Blast From the Past (1999)
  • The Out-of-Towners (1999)
  • Amy's Orgasm (2001)
  • Don't Say a Word (2001)
  • Deuces Wild (2002)
  • Take the Lead (2006)
  • The Sopranos-Walk Like a Man (2007)
  • We Own the Night (2007) CD (Lakeshore)
  • Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (2007)
  • Igor (2008)
  • Johnny Mercer: The Dream's On Me (2009)
  • How to Make it in America-Crisp (2010)

Keely Smith

  • You’re Breaking My Heart/Crazy (1965) single R 20346 (Reprise) UK
  • One Less Bell to Answer (1967) single (Atco) US
  • Your Love/The Loving Set (1971) single promo 74-0543 (RCA) US
  • I Wish You Love (1982) LP Album APCL 3325 (Applause) US
  • The Best of the Capitol Years (1990) CD (EMI)
  • What Kind of Fool Am I (1994) CD (Jasmine)
  • 1963 Live Guard Sessions (1994) CD (Jazz Band)
  • Spotlight on Keely Smith (1995) CD (Capitol)
  • Be My Love (1999) CD (Jasmine)
  • Because You're Mine (1999) CD (Jasmine)
  • Politely!/ Swinging Pretty (2000) CD (Collector's Choice/Capitol EMI Special Markets)
  • Absolutely the Best (2002) CD (Varese Sarabande)
  • I Wish You Love (2003) CD (Collector's Choice/Capitol EMI Special Markets)
  • Swing You Lovers (2004) CD (Jasmine)
  • Cherokeely Swings (2004) CD (Jasmine)
  • Dearly Beloved (2004) CD (Jasmine)
  • Essential Capitol Collection (2007) CD (Capitol)
  • The Very Best of Keely Smith (2008) CD (EMI)
  • A Keely Christmas (2009) CD (Jasmine)
  • Little Girl Blue/Little Girl New (unknown date) LP Album RS-6086 (Reprise) US
  • Somethin’ Wonderful Happened/Have You Ever Been Lonely (unknown date) single RS 0374 (Reprise) US

Keely Smith with Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra

  • It’s Magic (1959) EP EAP 1-20629 (Capitol) UK
  • The Surfboard (2006) CD DR 635 (Drive) Italy

Louis Prima and Keely Smith

  • Louis Prima -The Wildest! (1957) LP Album T 755 (Capitol) US
  • Louis Prima – The Wildest Show at Tahoe (1958) LP Album T 908 (Capitol) US
  • Louis and Keely (1959) LP Album DLP 25210 (Dot) US
  • When My Baby Smiles at Me/Paradise (1960) single 45-16060 (Dot) US
  • Begin the Beguine/Surprise Package (1961) single 45-16192 (Dot) US
  • Breaking It Up! (1953), reissued (1998) CD CK 65259 (Columbia) US
  • Box of Oldies (unknown date) LP Album S-74 (Spin-O-Rama) US
  • Greatest Hits (unknown date) CD 66096 CeDe International) Europe
  • Louis Prima – Capitol Collectors Series (1991) CD P 7 94072 2 (Capitol) UK, Europe, US
  • The Best of Louis Prima-Just a Gigolo (1996) CD 07243 8 52866 2 (EMI) France
  • Louis Prima-The Original (1996) CD TO 864682 (Disky) Europe
  • Louis Prima-Beepin’ and Boppin’ (1999) CD HIPD-40160 (Hip-O) US
  • Louis Prima (2001) CD FG004 (Forever Gold) UK

Louis Prima and Keely Smith with Sam Butera and the Witnesses

  • Las Vegas Prima Style (1958) LP Album T1010 (Capitol) US
  • That Old Black Magic/And You Are My Love (1958) single 45-CL 14948 (Capitol) UK
  • Bueno Sera-The Best, The Wildest (1999) CD RMB 75076 (Remember) Portugal
  • Ultra Lounge-Wild, Cool and Swingin’ (1999) 2xCD 7243 5 20437 2 9 (Capitol) US

Appears on (various artist compilations)

  • From the Sound Capitol of the World (1961) Promo LP PRO 1759/1760 (Capitol) US
  • Sophisticated Ladies (1987) 2xCD VSOP LP 102 (Connoiseur Collection) UK
  • EMI Hot Shots Nr 7 (1991) CD CDP 519 105 (EMI Electrola) Germany
  • Memories Are Made of This (1992) CD CDP 7 98670 2 (Capitol) US
  • Sweet and Lovely-Capitol’s Great Ladies of Song Vol 1 (1992) CD CDP 7 97802 2 (Capitol) US
  • Sentimental Journey-Capitol’s Great Ladies of Song Vol 2 (1992) CD CDP 7 98014 2 (Capitol) US
  • Cocktail Mix Vol 3 (1996) CD R2 72239 (Rhino) US
  • Mega Jukebox Hits (1996) CD HR 871792 (Disky) UK
  • Ultra Lounge Part 1-The Leopard Skin Sampler (1996) CD P 7243 8 38376 2 5 (Capitol) US
  • Ultra Lounge Vol 5-Wild, Cool and Swingin’ (1996) CD (Capitol) US
  • Ultra Lounge Vol 15-Wild, Cool and Swingin’ Too! (1997) CD 7243 8 53411 2 0 (Capitol) US
  • Chart Breaker: Greatest Hits of the 50’s and 60’s CD 3 (1997) CD BX 884532 (Disky) Netherlands
  • Jazz Club (1997) CD BX 884532 (Weton-Wesgram) Netherlands
  • Greatest Voices of the World (1997) 3xCD SP311 (Weton-Wesgram) Netherlands
  • Loud, Fast and Out of Control: The Wild Sounds of 50’s Rock (1999) 4xCD Box Set R2 75704 (Rhino) US
  • Girl Watching (2000) 3xCD BX 996812, BX 996822, BX 996832 (Disky, Disky, Disky) Netherlands
  • The Greatest Voices and Unforgettable Evergreens (2000) 10xCD Box set DB 998242 (Disky) Europe
  • Lounge It – What’s The Trouble (2001) CD 724357635820 (EMI) Netherlands
  • Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings-Double Bill (2001) 2xCD 22 200862 (Roadrunner Arcade) Europe
  • Fly Right (2005) CD 09463-46776-2-2 (EMI Music Special Markets) US
  • Slynne Duety (2006) CD 6024 983 707 0 4 (Universal Music Polska) Poland
  • Las Vegas Legends (2007) CD 40430 024286 2 1 (EMI) Germany
  • Magic Moments-The Definitive Burt Bacharach Collection (2008) 3xCD 2564 69219 1 (Rhino) UK, Europe
  • The Greatest Hits of the 50’s and 60’s (unknown date) 2xLP Album SLB-6718, SLB-6718 (Capitol) US

Film and television appearances

List of film and television appearances
Year Title Role Notes
1957 Dinah Shore Chevy Show, TheThe Dinah Shore Chevy Show Self Episode 2.5
1958 Universal Special: The Wildest Self Musical short
1958 Thunder Road Francie Wymore
1958 Senior Prom Self
1958 Dinah Shore Chevy Show, TheThe Dinah Shore Chevy Show Self Episode 2.26
1959 Dinah Shore Chevy Show, TheThe Dinah Shore Chevy Show Self Episode 3.27
1959 Sunday Showcase Self 1st Annual Grammy Awards
1959 Hey Boy! Hey Girl! Dorothy Spencer
Ed Sullivan Show, TheThe Ed Sullivan Show Self Episodes: 12.34, 12.35, 13.36 and 13.37
1961 Loretta Young Show Cathy Sands Episode: "Not in Our Stars"
1962 Stump the Stars Self Episode: "Keely Smith v Barry Sullivan"
1962 Ed Sullivan Show, TheThe Ed Sullivan Show Self Episode 15.18
1962 Garry Moore Show, TheThe Garry Moore Show Self Episode 5.1
1962 What's My Line? Mystery Guest March 18, 1962
1962 Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, TheThe Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Self Nov 28, 1962
1963 Garry Moore Show, TheThe Garry Moore Show Self Episodes 5.19 and 5.23
1963 Red Skelton Hour Daisy June "A Midsummer Nut's Dream"
1963 Andy Williams Show, TheThe Andy Williams Show Self Jan 10, 1963
1964 Ed Sullivan Show, TheThe Ed Sullivan Show Self Episode 17.4
1966 Mister Roberts Kueen Konah Episode: "Son of Eight in Every Port"
1966 Dean Martin Comedy Hour, TheThe Dean Martin Comedy Hour Self Mar 17, 1966
1966 Mickie Finn's Self Episode 1.6
1967 Dean Martin Comedy Hour, TheThe Dean Martin Comedy Hour Self Mar 2, 1967
1967 You Don't Say! Self May 1, 1967
1968 Dean Martin Comedy Hour, TheThe Dean Martin Comedy Hour Self Feb 22, 1968
1974 Merv Griffin Show, TheThe Merv Griffin Show Self May 30, 1974
1977 Merv Griffin Show, TheThe Merv Griffin Show Self Nov 18, 1977
1983 Juke Box Saturday Night Self
1984 DTV: Golden Oldies Self Archive footage
1996 Real Las Vegas, TheThe Real Las Vegas Self Archive footage
1999 Rat Pack, TheThe Rat Pack Self TV Documentary
1999 Louis Prima: The Wildest! Self TV Documentary
2000 Late Night with Conan O'Brien Self Mar 25, 2000
2007 Jimmy Kimmel Live! Self June 26, 2007
2007 Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project Self TV Documentary
2008 50th Annual Grammy Awards Self
2009 Johnny Mercer: The Dream's On Me Self Archive Footage-Documentary


  1. ^ For 1928, see:
    • 1930 United States Federal Census. Year: 1930; Census Place: Norfolk, Norfolk (Independent City), Virginia; Roll: 2472; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0109; Image: 792.0; FHL microfilm: 2342206.
    • Clavin, Tom (2010). That Old Black Magic: Louis Prima, Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Las Vegas. Chicago Review Press. p. 55.  
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 509.  
  3. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  4. ^ I Wish You Love album liner notes (1958)
  5. ^ "Toledo Blade". Toledo Blade, Dorothy Kilgallen column, August 16, 1961. 
  6. ^ "Keely Smith Granted Default Divorce". The Palm Beach Post. July 30, 1969. 
  7. ^ "Keely Smith". Herald Journal. 25 January 1975. 
  8. ^ "Keely Smith faces over 25 tax counts". The Pittsburg Press. AP. July 12, 1986. p. A2. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Cherokeely Swings - Keely Smith | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 

External links

  • Keely Smith at the Internet Movie Database
  • NPR: "Keely Smith: A Swingin' Icon of Early Vegas"
  • Interview by KUOW-FM's Amanda Wilde
  • Keely Smith on
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