[Dixielandjazz] Louis and Keeley

Charles Suhor csuhor at zebra.net
Tue Jan 30 12:28:22 PST 2007

The rap on Sam Butera, leading to the Prima band....Sam was well 
respected even as a teenager, when he was part of a N.O. band that won 
the national LOOK magazine contest for teen bands in 1945 or 46. He won 
the top instrumentalist award, and Al Belletto was also named as 

Later, Sam was playing good bop sets in obscurity around the Quarter 
when Joe Delaney saw his talents and took him to hear some New York 
blues groups like Sam Cooke that knew how to build an entertaining set 
for maximum audience reaction. Sam returned to the city to form the 
Witnesses (with versatile jazz-influenced players like Dick Johnson, 
drums, and Sam’s front-line partner Jimmy Blount, trombone). I heard 
them at the Safari Room, where they drew huge crowds and had a radio 
show. Sam had a hit record, “Chicken Scratch.” Sam had left modern jazz 
but his solos were still beautifully constructed and the band swung on 
jump tempos and played great ballads.

The Dixieland/early jazz postwar revival in N.O. had faded by 1953. Sam 
and innovators like Fats Domino, Roy Brown, and Roy Price were bringing 
in the then-new wave of R&B.  Prima heard the band (maybe via Delaney, 
I’m not sure) and knew it had the right kind of energy for his evolving 
act with Keeley, and rest is history.

Charlie Suhor

On Jan 30, 2007, at 1:31 PM, George Thurmond wrote:

> All the talking about Prima and Smith takes me back to the "good ole
> days" in Vegas (the 50's and 60's) when you could catch Louis, Sam, and
> Lou with Keeley in a Lounge set for just the price of a drink.  They
> were then the Greatest in town, and they packed them in.  What a bunch
> of great musicians and entertainers!  I believe most of the band/combo
> was made up of New Orleans guys.  Their act was the next best thing I
> remember about my honeymoon trip to Vegas!
> George Thurmond
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