Tag Archives: Las Vegas 1950’s

Louis Armstrong, The Rat Pack, & Cyndi Lauper: We All Just Wanna Have Fun

In the late 1950’s and early 60’s, the “Rat Pack” show at the Sands Hotel was the hottest ticket in Vegas. The group that eventually consisted of entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop sang songs, told jokes, performed slapstick for laughs, and displayed various other forms of hijinks. But as those who were close to the action in those days tell it, the show was almost secondary. A seat at those shows was like an invitation to the greatest party on the planet.

The performers were having a blast, and you were now a part of their inner circle sharing in the fun.

Let’s take Louis Armstrong. Was there ever a moment that you watched him perform that you didn’t believe music was the purest form of joy on the planet? I think not.

That takes us to Cyndi Lauper. When she took the music world by storm in the 80’s, she came across as a quirky outsider with a flair for outrageous fashion. As her career progressed, however, she later became respected as a talented songwriter and musician, respected across musical genres. Her breakout hit? “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Fans were drawn to Cyndi by her love of music, and they have followed her on her 25+ year journey (30 million in global record sales at last count)

There’s a lesson for music educators and educators in general – Ultimately it’s your love of the subject matter that will inspire your students.

Happy 100th Birthday Louis Prima

In 1985, David Lee Roth’s recording of “Just a Gigolo” hit the Billboard top 40. While many of my friends who grew up in the era of music video considered it a new song, there was nothing new about the song if you grew up in an Italian-American family in New Orleans.

Louis Prima was one of the most dynamic performers of his era, and his 1950’s Vegas show was a favorite stop of many of the celebrities of the day, many of whom rose to greater levels of fame and success. But they realized that Louis Prima was one of the most dynamic musicians in the business, and he had a rare gift. No performer exuded the joy of playing music like Louis and his band (The Witnesses led by sax player Sam Butera).

My fellow Sicilian-American, New Orleans native would have been 100 years old today. His son Louis Prima Jr. currently performs a tribute show to his dad. The music of Louis Prima has been rediscovered by new audiences through remakes by David Lee Roth, Brian Setzer, and other artists. His music has also been re-discovered and utilized by TV commercial and film producers.

Prima’s success was a great source of pride in my family growing up, and it was only later in life that I began to understand why. Here’s one my favorite (thought somewhat lesser known) Louis Prima songs, “Banana Split for My Baby.” Happy Birthday, Louis.