A Q&A with Louis Prima, Jr.: Destin gig will be 'the most difficult show I have ever done'

Jennie McKeon
Gia Prima was the special guest when her son Louis Prima Jr. took the stage at last year’s Destin Seafood Festival.

UPDATE: Due to the formation of Tropical Storm Karen in the Gulf of Mexico, the City of Destin has been placed under a hurricane watch. The 35th Annual Destin Seafood Festival has been canceled. Tropical Storm Karen is expected to make landfall in Northwest Florida this weekend. For Seafood Festival updates please see www.destinseafoodfestival.org.

When widow of the King of Swing and singer Gia Prima passed away last week in Destin, The Log emailed Prima's son, who is set to perform in Destin for the 35th annual Destin Seafood Festival. Hailed for his big band sound with a dose of rockin' swing, Louis Prima, Jr., & the Witnesses take the HarborWalk Village Stage Sunday at 5 p.m. Below are some of his memories of Mom and his musical thoughts.

Q:  What is your fondest memory of your mother?

A: Is it wrong if I say, all of them? Truthfully though, watching her sing. We were fortunate enough to be on the road with our parents over summer breaks, and weekends in Vegas and New Orleans... She truly was an amazing singer, and even as a child, you just knew there was something magical up there on stage. Personally though, just sitting with her, watching TV and she would scratch my back... Dorky? Yes.

Q: What is a regular pasttime you two did together? Something musical perhaps?

A: Well honestly, there was nothing regular in our life. You have to remember that from ages 10 to 13, my father was in a coma, and my mom spent most of her time commuting from Vegas to L.A. to be by his side. She would pick us up on weekends and we spent weekends in L.A. with her. And when he was moved to New Orleans, we lived in Covington, across the lake. There was a lot of coming and going. I will say this: With all the driving, it is her fault that I like to speed. She even admitted that to my kids.

'King of Swing' Widow, Gia Prima, passes away in Destin (PHOTOS)

Q: Were your parents the inspiration for you to become a musician?

A: Actually, when I graduated high school, I wanted nothing to do with the entertainment business. I entered college wanting to be a business major. I would go and watch my father's old band The Witnesses, and they would let me get up and sing. This was in Vegas, and my mother had moved back to Louisiana by then. So indirectly, the music did inspire me, but it was rock and roll that pulled me in. It's really my sister who provided me with the biggest inspiration back then. My friends and I would sneak into clubs to see her play. I would do a song with her now and then and I LOVED being on stage. Ultimately though, it was my parents' music, their entertainment, that drove me and it is who I am today. 

Q: Everyone is looking forward to your performance at the Seafood Fest, do you suppose you'll do a tribute to your mother?

A: I know that Destin is going to be the most difficult show I have ever done, and will ever do in my life. Looking out and knowing she is not there will undoubtedly kill me. Our shows are never pre-planned, so I don't know what I will do. I haven't had much time to gather and properly put together any video or anything, so a true tribute will eventually happen. But for now, just to celebrate her in our music will be tribute enough — if I can hold my composure.

Q: Anything else you'd like readers to know about you Mom?

A: Gia Maione Prima was a special person. Thrust into stardom at only 21, she gave away her budding career in order to properly raise her children. Yep, she left the stage for us. Then just getting back into the swing of things, my father became ill. There was a LOT of debt, and for three years he was in a coma. I don't know how she made it all work, raising kids, repairing a grim financial outlook. She made sure we had everything we needed to thrive, all while caring for my father. Then came a 15-year battle over his estate and never-ending legal battles to grow my father's name into what it should have been. She protected his legacy, all while caring for her ailing parents in their twilight years. And she made sure my father's name gave back, in the form of scholarships, etc. I don't know how she kept it all together. She was a loving mother — strict (Italian), but loving. She was a loving grandmother, my kids adored her... She was my biggest critic and biggest fan. A big thank you to Frank Savanah, her love and companion. Thank you for being my mother's rock, and giving her the happiness that she deserved.