That Old Black Magic

That Old Black Magic
That Old Black Magic

That Old Black Magic

Louis Prima, Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Las Vegas
By Tom Clavin


224 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, PDF, Mobipocket, EPUB

Cloth, $24.95 (CA $27.95) (US $24.95)

ISBN 9781556528217

Rights: WOR

Chicago Review Press (Nov 2010)


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Celebrating "The Wildest" performers

Both a love story and a tribute to the entertainment mecca, this exploration shines a spotlight on one of the hottest acts in Las Vegas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The illuminating depiction showcases the unlikely duo—a grizzled, veteran trumpeter and vocalist molded by Louis Armstrong and a meek singer in the church choir—who went on to invent “The Wildest.” Bringing together broad comedy and finger-snapping, foot-stomping music that included early forays into rock and roll, Prima and Smith’s act became wildly popular and attracted all kinds of star-studded attention. In addition to chronicling their relationships with Ed Sullivan, Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, and other well-known entertainers of the day—and their performance of “That Old Black Magic” at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration—the narrative also examines the couple’s ongoing influence in the entertainment world. Running concurrent with their personal tale is their role in transforming Las Vegas from a small resort town in the desert to a booming city where the biggest stars were paid tons of money to become even bigger stars on stage and television.


"This book brought me back to my days in Vegas, which we’ll never see again. That was a one-time-only event. I enjoyed Louis Prima more than any other entertainer I’ve seen onstage, that’s how good he was."  —Shecky Greene

"Clavin has produced an easy read that is informative, entertaining and enlightening . . . makes a valuable contribution to the world's body of knowledge about one of the greatest entertainers of all time."  —

"Crisply written and engaging."  —PopMatters

Author Biography

Tom Clavin is a writer, an editor, and a journalist. He is the author of Dark Noon and Sir Walter and the coauthor of Halsey’s Typhoon, The Last Stand of Fox Company, and Roger Maris. His articles have appeared in publications including Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Men’s Journal, Parade, and Reader’s Digest. He is a former contributing reporter for the New York Times. He lives in East Hampton, New York.