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RIP Sam Butera

June 9, 2009

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Best known as Louis Prima’s great saxophonist, Sam Butera was a terrific singer and bandleader in his own right and really the musical backbone of the Prima act for years as the arranger of such classic recordings as “That Old Black Magic” and “Just a Gigolo”/”I Ain’t Got Nobody.” (Apparently, he received nothing from the David Lee Roth version, which pretty much lifted his arrangement whole, that was a massive hit in 1985.)

Butera was also a credible entertainer in his own right. Sometime in the late eighties, I was fortunate enough to see him and his great band, the Wildest, performing with the wonderful Keely Smith, doing a variation on the old Prima-Smith nightclub act at, where else?, the Desert Inn in Las Vegas…and it was definitely the next best thing to actually being there during their fifties heyday. (Their onstage banter so closely followed the old Prima-Smith shows, which I knew little about at the time, that the pair actually had me convinced that they were also a couple. I also understand that “gullible” is not in the dictionary.) It was a night of truly great entertainment, all for the price of a couple of screwdrivers.

Anyhow, here’s the L.A. Times obit and another from NPR. And now a video of Sam with Louis Prima on Ed Sullivan.

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