Las Vegas legend Keely Smith dies at the age of 89

Grammy-winning jazz vocalist and Las Vegas legend  Keely Smith has passed away. Smith was 89 years old. She died of apparent heart failure on Dec. 16 in Palm Springs, California.

Smith's real name was Dorothy Jacqueline Keely. She began singing at the age of 14 with a naval air station band. When she was 15, she got her first paying job as a singer. She met singer and bandleader Louis Prima in 1948 when she auditioned for his band and they married in 1953.

Smith and Prima's act was a mainstay of the Las Vegas lounge scene for much of the 50s. They first performed in a small lounge at the Sahara hotel-casino. Sam Butera also performed with them. They are credited with making Las Vegas a major show business destination. She won her first Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1959 with Prima for the song "That Old Black Magic." She later performed that song with Kid Rock on the Grammy Awards show in 2008. 

Smith was known for her pitch-perfect tone and her ability to make vocal leaps. She called herself a "saloon singer." Smith was also known for her deadpan act, which Cher was said to have "borrowed" when she first began singing with the late Sonny Bono. 

The couple divorced in 1961 and Smith continued performing. She recorded "Because You're Mine" and "Keely Smith Sings The John Lennon-Paul McCartney Songbook" during that time. She married record producer Jimmy Bowen in 1965 and she had two Top 20 hits that year.

Bowen and Smith divorced in 1969 and she married singer Bobby Milano in 1975 in Palm Springs. Singer Frank Sinatra, whom she was rumored to have had an affair with in the 50s, gave the bride away at the wedding. 

Smith took a 20-year break from singing but returned in 1985. At that time, she recorded the album "I'm in Love Again" with Bud Shank and Bill Perkins. 

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.

Smith also appeared in movies like "Thunder Road" opposite Robert Mitchum and two movies with Prima.

The singer has stars on the Palms Springs Walk of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


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