Keely Smith

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Keely Smith
Birth nameDorothy Jacqueline Keely
Born(1928-03-09) March 9, 1928 (age 86)
OriginNorfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Pop music
Associated actsLouis Prima
Frank Sinatra
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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 nameDorothy Jacqueline Keely
Born(1928-03-09) March 9, 1928 (age 86)
OriginNorfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Pop music
Associated actsLouis Prima
Frank Sinatra

Keely Smith (born Dorothy Jacqueline Keely, March 9, 1928)[1] is an American jazz and popular music singer who enjoyed popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. She collaborated with, among others, Louis Prima and Frank Sinatra.


Smith showed a natural aptitude for singing at a young age. At age 14, she started singing with a naval air station band led by Saxie Dowell. At 15, she got her first paying job with the Earl Bennett band.

Smith made her professional debut with Louis Prima in 1949 (the couple was married in 1953); Smith played the "straight guy" in the duo to Prima's wild antics and they recorded many duets. These include 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 were awarded the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group or Chorus for "That Ol' Black Magic". Her "dead-pan" act was a hit 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.

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".[2] As of 2013, her Reprise recordings have never been made available on CD.

In 1985, she made a comeback with I'm In Love Again (Fantasy Records)[citation needed]. Her albums, Swing, Swing, Swing (2002), Keely Sings Sinatra (2001) for which she was Grammy nominated, and Keely Swings Count Basie Style with Strings (2002) garnered critical and fan acclaim.

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

Later career[edit]

Smith released Vegas '58 – Today a compilation album of her best known songs, all recorded live. Smith has re-recorded a number of songs from her Prima years, including a modified version of "Oh Marie," which has been renamed "Oh Louis" in tribute. By her own admission, she has never had a singing lesson and cannot read music.

She works a light touring schedule. She was booked at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City in 2007. On February 10, 2008, Smith performed "That Old Black Magic" with Kid Rock at the 50th Grammy Awards.

Personal life[edit]

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

In 1961, columnist Dorothy Kilgallen reported that Smith had dated and broken up with music executive Morris Levy.[5] In 1965, she married Jimmy Bowen. The couple divorced in 1969.[6]

Smith married musician Bobby Milano (real name Charles Caci) in 1975 in Palm Springs. Frank Sinatra gave the bride away.[7]

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


In 2008, Vanessa Claire Smith and Jake Broder wrote and starred in the new musical, Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara, which premiered at Los Angeles' Sacred Fools Theater Company and went on to be nominated for four Ovation Awards, including the Franklin R. Levy Award for Musical in an Intimate Theatre, which it won. Smith herself attended a performance.

Discography (solo)[edit]

Discography (others)[edit]


Keely Smith

Keely Smith with Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra

Louis Prima and Keely Smith

Louis Prima and Keely Smith with Sam Butera and the Witnesses

Appears on (various artist compilations)

Film and television appearances[edit]

List of film and television appearances
1957Dinah Shore Chevy Show, TheThe Dinah Shore Chevy ShowSelfEpisode 2.5
1958Universal Special: The WildestSelfMusical short
1958Thunder RoadFrancie Wymore
1958Senior PromSelf
1958Dinah Shore Chevy Show, TheThe Dinah Shore Chevy ShowSelfEpisode 2.26
1959Dinah Shore Chevy Show, TheThe Dinah Shore Chevy ShowSelfEpisode 3.27
1959Sunday ShowcaseSelf1st Annual Grammy Awards
1959Hey Boy! Hey Girl!Dorothy Spencer
Ed Sullivan Show, TheThe Ed Sullivan ShowSelfEpisodes: 12.34, 12.35, 13.36 and 13.37
1961Loretta Young ShowCathy SandsEpisode: "Not in Our Stars"
1962Stump the StarsSelfEpisode: "Keely Smith v Barry Sullivan"
1962Ed Sullivan Show, TheThe Ed Sullivan ShowSelfEpisode 15.18
1962Garry Moore Show, TheThe Garry Moore ShowSelfEpisode 5.1
1962What's My Line?Mystery GuestMarch 18, 1962
1962Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, TheThe Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonSelfNov 28, 1962
1963Garry Moore Show, TheThe Garry Moore ShowSelfEpisodes 5.19 and 5.23
1963Red Skelton HourDaisy June"A Midsummer Nut's Dream"
1963Andy Williams Show, TheThe Andy Williams ShowSelfJan 10, 1963
1964Ed Sullivan Show, TheThe Ed Sullivan ShowSelfEpisode 17.4
1966Mister RobertsKueen KonahEpisode: "Son of Eight in Every Port"
1966Dean Martin Comedy Hour, TheThe Dean Martin Comedy HourSelfMar 17, 1966
1966Mickie Finn'sSelfEpisode 1.6
1967Dean Martin Comedy Hour, TheThe Dean Martin Comedy HourSelfMar 2, 1967
1967You Don't Say!SelfMay 1, 1967
1968Dean Martin Comedy Hour, TheThe Dean Martin Comedy HourSelfFeb 22, 1968
1974Merv Griffin Show, TheThe Merv Griffin ShowSelfMay 30, 1974
1977Merv Griffin Show, TheThe Merv Griffin ShowSelfNov 18, 1977
1983Juke Box Saturday NightSelf
1984DTV: Golden OldiesSelfArchive footage
1996Real Las Vegas, TheThe Real Las VegasSelfArchive footage
1999Rat Pack, TheThe Rat PackSelfTV Documentary
1999Louis Prima: The Wildest!SelfTV Documentary
2000Late Night with Conan O'BrienSelfMar 25, 2000
2007Jimmy Kimmel Live!SelfJune 26, 2007
2007Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles ProjectSelfTV Documentary
200850th Annual Grammy AwardsSelf
2009Johnny Mercer: The Dream's On MeSelfArchive Footage-Documentary


  1. ^ For 1928, see:
    • 1930 United States Federal Census. Year: 1930; Census Place: Norfolk, Norfolk (Independent City), Virginia; Roll: 2472; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0109; Image: 792.0; FHL microfilm: 2342206.
    • Clavin, Tom (2010). That Old Black Magic: Louis Prima, Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Las Vegas. Chicago Review Press. p. 55. ISBN 9781569768136. She was born to Howard Keely...and Fanny Stevens on March 9, 1928. (Throughout most of her career, however, her birth year was given as 1932.) 
  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. ^ "Toledo Blade". Toledo Blade, Dorothy Kilgallen column, August 16, 1961. 
  6. ^ "Keely Smith Granted Default Divorce". The Palm Beach Post. July 30, 1969. 
  7. ^ "Keely Smith". Herald Journal. 25 January 1975. 
  8. ^ "Keely Smith faces over 25 tax counts". The Pittsburg Press. AP. July 12, 1986. p. A2. Retrieved September 30, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Cherokeely Swings - Keely Smith | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 

External links[edit]