Keely Smith

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This article is about the singer. For the actress also known as Keely Shaye Brosnan, see Keely Shaye Smith.
Keely Smith
Birth name Dorothy Jacqueline Keely
Born (1932-03-09) March 9, 1932 (age 85)
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Genres Jazz, vocal jazz, pop
Occupation(s) Singer
Years active 1949–present
Labels Capitol, Dot
Associated acts Louis Prima

Keely Smith (born Dorothy Jacqueline Keely, March 9, 1932) is an American jazz singer who spent much of her career with Louis Prima.


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

She saw Louis Prima perform in New York City in 1949. When he came through Norfolk, Virginia, she auditioned. She became the calm balance to Prima's wild antics, as he made his way through a repertoire of jump blues, jazz, and Italian pop songs. They recorded together in 1949 and married in 1953.[1]

Their songs included 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 won the first Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group for "That Ol' Black Magic". Her deadpan act was popular 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. Though her actual voice was not used, she was caricatured as "Squealy Smith" in Bob Clampett's 1960 Beany and Cecil episode "So What and the Seven Whatnots," a Snow White spoof in a Vegas setting.

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 No. 14 in April.[2]

She returned to singing in 1985, recording the album I'm in Love Again with Bud Shank and Bill Perkins.[1] Her albums, Swing, Swing, Swing (2002), Keely Sings Sinatra (2001) for which she received a Grammy nomination, and Keely Swings Count Basie Style with Strings (2002) won critical and popular acclaim.

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

Personal life[edit]

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

In 1965, she married Jimmy Bowen. The couple divorced in 1969.[5] She married singer Bobby Milano (real name Charles Caci) in 1975 in Palm Springs. Frank Sinatra gave the bride away.[6]

In 1986, Smith faced legal problems for failing to withhold employee personal income and disability insurance taxes in connection with vending companies (including Piggy Vending) she owned in Palm Springs, California.[7][8]


  • 1957 I Wish You Love (Capitol)
  • 1958 Politely!
  • 1959 Because You're Mine
  • 1959 Hey Boy! Hey Girl! (Capitol)
  • 1959 Swingin' Pretty (Capitol)
  • 1960 Louis and Keely!
  • 1960 Swing, You Lovers
  • 1960 Together
  • 1960 Twist with Keely Smith
  • 1961 Dearly Beloved
  • 1962 Cherokeely Swings
  • 1963 A Keely Christmas
  • 1965 Keely Smith Sings the Beatles (Reprise)
  • 1969 Little Girl New
  • 1973 Little Girl Blue
  • 1980 Doin' the Twist
  • 1985 I'm in Love Again (Fantasy)
  • 1994 What Kind of Fool Am I?
  • 2000 Swing, Swing, Swing (Concord Jazz)
  • 2001 Keely Sings Sinatra (Concord Jazz)
  • 2002 Keely Swings Basie-Style With Strings (Concord Jazz)
  • 2005 Vegas '58 – Today (Concord)
  • 2012 Sweet and Lovely (Cherished)[9]

With Louis Prima

  • 1950 Angelina
  • 1953 Breaking It Up!
  • 1957 The Call of the Wildest
  • 1957 The Wildest!
  • 1959 Hey Boy! Hey Girl!
  • 1959 Strictly Prima!
  • 1960 Louis and Keely!
  • 1960 Together
  • 1990 Buona Sera
  • 1994 Return of the Wildest[10]


  1. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. "Keely Smith | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 February 2017. 
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 509. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  4. ^ I Wish You Love album liner notes (1958)
  5. ^ "Keely Smith Granted Default Divorce". The Palm Beach Post. July 30, 1969. 
  6. ^ "Keely Smith". Herald Journal. 25 January 1975. 
  7. ^ "Keely Smith faces over 25 tax counts". The Pittsburg Press. AP. July 12, 1986. p. A2. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  8. ^ Organized Crime in California 1978. 1979. p. 19. 
  9. ^ "Keely Smith | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 February 2017. 
  10. ^ "Keely Smith | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 February 2017. 

External links[edit]