If you’re hip enough to know about Louis Prima, you already know about his wild, comedic singing; his snazzy far out jazz and, most of all, his scat singing. If the name Louis Prima doesn’t mean anything to you, but you’ve heard the amazing scat duel in the old Jungle Book song “I Wanna Be Like You,” you already know a lot about Louis Prima. He did the scatting for the orangutan King Louie (whose part he voiced), and Phil Harris scatted for Baloo the bear, whose voice he handled.
You may also know about Prima if you’re familiar with David Lee Roth, who was doing a riff off Prima when he performed his cover of the master’s hilarious “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” medley in 1985. Roth’s version was pretty funny, as well.
If you don’t know about any of this stuff, just search for “Louis Prima” on YouTube and watch anything that comes up. I guarantee you’ll laugh and get a lift.
Louis Prima’s been dead these long 40 years. The good news is, his daughter, Lena, has just signed a contract with New Orleans’ Basin Street Records. In January, she’ll be releasing an album with the label. It’s called Prima La Famiglia — which is Italian for “family first.”
The press release says Lena Prima “set out to make an album of quintessential songs for the Italian-American family.” Prima explains, “It’s the music that Italian-Americans grew up with back in the ‘40s that carried on throughout generations. They played this music in their family homes, at Sunday dinners … weddings.”
You might not be able to buy the album quite yet, but you can preorder it at offbeat.com. You can also watch a short documentary about the making of the album. Look for the story titled “Lena Prima Signs With Basin Street Records.”
One of my few talents — well, my only talent, really — is to be able to come close to reproducing the scat battle of The Jungle Book. As a special treat for your years of loyalty to the Up Front column, I’ll treat you to a transcription of the first few lines of my interpretation of the scat:
“HEY! A lop an zoli. And a dooly dooly lop an zoy. And a doop a daze a boppin, doop a daze a boppin, doop a daze, a bones, a bop bop boppy.
“Abby doo dee!
“Doodly reap another!
“Abba dabba doy.
“Doodle dee lop an zolli!”
Now, that’s enough of that. If you want more, you’ll need to watch “I Wanna Be Like You” on YouTube, where it has 32 million views. You can find out whether you — like Louis Prima — are “the king of the swingers.”
The October issue of Offbeat magazine also has a story on Louisiana new wave icons The Cold (who are now performing in the state) and a cover story on Jon Cleary.
Single File, Please
When I was a kid, I was a bike riding fiend. Once, I even navigated the Death Race 2000 bicycle lanes of the University of Illinois to get an ice cream cake home before the ice cream melted.
Though I’m usually disinclined to offer unsolicited advice, whenever someone tells me he’s thinking of biking in Lake Charles, I advise him not to do it unless he’s into extreme pain.
I’m an introvert and don’t know many people. Even so, I know three folks who’ve tried to bicycle in Lake Charles. All three wound up in a hospital with extremely serious injuries. Since they were all level-headed, intelligent people, I don’t think it was the bike riding that was the problem.
Riding a bicycle anywhere near vehicles being navigated by Louisiana drivers is about as good for the health as juggling bottles of nitroglycerin. We saw that in June when East Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso died when he was hit by a driver while he was riding his bike.
Saint Francisville reacted to this event by passing new rules about the behavior of cyclists. If you’ve ever wondered what “punishing the victim” means, you’re about to find out.
The Advocate reports that West Feliciana Parish council officials have voted through measures that require cyclists to wear fluorescent clothing at all times — even high noon. They’re also required to ride single file in small groups. That’s right; cycling solo is verboten. (That’s the case, anyway, if I’m correctly reading the law, which is written in such convoluted bureaucratic English that it’s hard to believe it’s English at all.)
Before the vote, Tom Townsend, owner of a Baton Rouge bike shop, told council members that — in the words of the Advocate — “if drivers travel at reasonable speeds, there’s room to pass safely.” He’s either new to the area or inexperienced in its ways. My cerebral alarms go off when an adult of a certain age seems to believe that Louisiana drivers know the rules of the road and follow them.
If you’re a bicyclist in Louisiana, the only rule you need to know is this one: restrict all bicycling to roads and alleys that are entirely free of moving vehicles.
Myrtles And More
Turn the porch light off on the night of Oct. 31. Then celebrate Halloween the next day. A lecture on the topic of “Ghost Stories of Louisiana” will be held on Thursday, Nov. 1 at the old Governor’s Mansion at 502 North Blvd., Baton Rouge (225-387-2464). The lecture will take place twice: at 6 and 8 pm.
Facilitator Karen Kaprowski-Stout will present the audience with first-hand accounts of paranormal experiences at the Myrtles Plantation and San Francisco Plantation. Audience participation will be encouraged; that means, I think, that those in the audience will be free to share their stories about weird stuff that happened to them.
While I was doing my Prima seraching on YouTube, I saw a trailer for The Walking Dead. I could hardly not see it, it was being promoted so heavily. I was astonished that the same people who were in this show when I watched the beginning of it a couple of centuries ago are still alive. Damn! This is the most efficient bunch of zombie killers in the history of zombie celluloid. They make the Woody Harrelson character in Zombieland and the skinny, sweaty guy in 28 Days Later look like slackers.
I also see that pretty much everybody in the show is having affairs with pretty much everybody else, which pretty much confirms my early suspicions about where the show was going — and demonstrates that relentless zombie attacks don’t really alter the basics of human behavior.
As a horror movie freak, I don’t really have to do much to scare myself come Halloween. At any time of the year I can get myself shook by sitting through the version of Silent House with Elizabeth Olsen; trying to make it through one of the 1980s cannibal movies; or watching The Strangers and driving myself wiggy trying to figure out what I’d do if those freaks were after me. (If you think you have to take drugs to feel paranoid, watch The Strangers.)
In spite of all that, I was feeling a little skeered the first two weeks of October. I was afraid that all the local Halloween events were going to be cancelled because of extreme heat.
I am a real wit; and every time I walked through the door after work during those weeks, I said, “Gee, it’s mighty hot out there for August.”
When it got down to 64 on Oct. 10, all my fears evaporated. I directed my energy to coming up with a joke we can tell each other if it gets cold this winter:
You know it’s cold outside when you go outside and it’s cold.
We Nailed It Again!
Word is in from the 2017 U.S. Census Report, and Louisiana has once again beat out its arch rivals West Virginia and Mississippi to finish first in a major poverty category in the United State. Yes, in 2017, Louisiana was the undisputed Top Dog in the child poverty rate in American.
Not all the other news was so good. We only finished No. 2 in the overall poverty category. And in income inequality, we were a dismal No. 4.
The worst part of it is, the Census Bureau didn’t inform me of what states beat us in the categories we didn’t top out in. It would be a bitter thing to know that West Virginia beat us in two major U.S. poverty categories.
This year’s finish wasn’t bad; but we can go do better. I know we can. If virtually every Louisiana citizen remains absolutely indifferent to the ways in which our tax structure, tax code, Legislature and Constitution bulldoze our poor people, I think we can claw our way back up to the top of the bottom with relatively little work; well, in fact, with no work at all.
Person In The News
My energy level is so low that I consider any weekend when I wash a sink of dishes and do a load of laundry a productive weekend. But against all odds, and for some reason, I suddenly became highly motivated to transform myself into a lady killer after all this time.
The whole plan shot into my head with the speed of a bolt of lightning. I’m going to dye my hair dirty blonde and grow it out into a mullet. I’m going to shave off my beard so there’s nothing left but a trash stache. I’m going to get rid of all my experimental music records and go to Goodwill and get all the Billy Ray Cyrus records so I can learn some love songs if I need them. I’m going to lose 70 pounds immediately and squeeze into a pair of size 32 black jeans. I’ll hitch my black boxers up a couple of inches over my belt line. Finally, I’m going to shave off most of my chest hair.
When all that is done, I’m going to go outside — without a shirt on — and walk around. Every time I see a female who looks like she’s older than 18, I’m going to say, “‘Sup, ladies.” Even if there’s just one, I’m still going to say, “‘Sup, ladies.” “‘Sup, ladies” is going to be my thing.
It may seem silly for me to do all this when my overall energy level is so low I can no longer do anything with females anyway. But, apparently, this is where my dream … the universe … The Promise … and my spirit animal are leading me. So I reckon I must follow.
I called Billy Ray Cyrus and asked him what he thought of the plan. He said that to him, it seemed “kinda hawt.” I think that’s a very good sign.
It’s Not Entirely Bad News
If you read on down through the always hilarious “The News” section, you’ll see that one of the headlines this issue is KPLC’s “How many McNeese fans are training their children to be the next tailgaters?” The instant I read that hard news headline, the thought that popped into my mind was, “How many McNeese fans are training their children to read books?”
The good news is that a new survey from the venerable Pew Memorial Trust found that three out of four Americans read at least one book last year. Not all of those read three-dimensional books; 15 percent of Americans now prefer audiobooks. But a full two out of three most like to read books in their traditional printed form. All of that is good news. That’s a sentence you won’t see up in here very often.
“How many McNeese fans are training their children to be the next tailgaters?” — KPLC headline, Tweeted Oct. 8
“Lili Reinhart is Okay Talking About her Struggles With Acne”
“Riz Ahmed Accidentally Recorded Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’ Over His Parents’ Wedding VHS”
— Both headlines on Just Jared Jr. on Oct. 3.
“Honey Boo Boo competes on ‘Dancing with the Stars: Juniors’” — CNN headline, Oct. 8.