It’s not every day that you find a classic album for $2.
But last Saturday, in one of the crates at a booth at a nearby antiques mall, was this great album from 1957: “The Wildest!” by Louis Prima.
If you saw Keely Smith duet with Kid Rock at the Grammys the other night and wondered why, here’s why. Listen to “The Wildest!” and you’ll hear Smith the sassy singer, Prima the legendary hipster and their backing band, the sizzling Sam Butera and the Witnesses.
It was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles on April 19 and 20, 1956, in a session loose enough to make it seem like it was recorded live at Prima’s usual stomping grounds, the Sahara lounge in Las Vegas.
Here’s what Prima had to say about it in the original liner notes:
“I’ve had hit records, man, but I never liked ”em. They never sounded like we sound on a job. But this is it. This is three o’clock in the morning at the Sahara.”
Here’s what you get on Side 1, also from those liner notes:
“Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” — “Louis is up front all the way but Keely and the boys in his band — the Witnesses — back him up, singing, humming, and providing instrumental and spiritual comfort as needed. They turn it into a real rock ‘n’ roller.”
“Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby” — “Keely and Louis sing together on … a sweet, swinging version of ‘Listen to the Mocking Bird,’ with a new lyric by the leader.”
“The Lip” — “Sung by Keely is the story of a trumpet man who rubs ‘high note grease’ on his mouthpiece. Louis does the demonstrating and also recites the sordid details of the grease recipe.”
“Body and Soul” — “Trombonist James Blount … slides off on … the Johnny Green-Eddie Heyman standard.”
“Oh Marie” — “Louis serenades her at a bright tempo, with the boys giving him a light boogie-woogie in the background. He starts off in English, winds up in Italian, and if Marie doesn’t get the message it isn’t Louis’ fault.”
It lives up to the album title. It’s the wildest, man. If not now, then certainly in January 1957, when it was released. It was swing and jazz to be sure, but you could see rock and roll in the distance.
Yes, this is a 51-year-old piece of vinyl. Which may explain why it was sold “as is,” for $2. Perhaps the seller never gave it a spin. The sound is almost perfect, save for the occasional pop you’d expect after all that time and all those plays.
“Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby,” “The Lip,” “Body and Soul” and “Oh Marie,” Louis Prima, from “The Wildest!” 1957. It runs 15:13.