Louis Prima

The King of Swing
Birth Name:
Louis Leo Prima
Birth Date:
December 7, 1910
Birth Place:
New Orleans, Louisiana
Death Date:
August 24, 1978
Place of Death:
Touro Infirmary, New Orleans, Louisiana
Cause of Death:
Cerebral hemorrhage followed by a 3 year waking coma
Cemetery Name:
Metairie Cemetery
Claim to Fame:
Proud son of Italian immigrants and a talented band leader, trumpter, composer and singer Louis Prima developed his talent earning the title "King of the Vegas Lounges" and "The Wildest Act in Las Vegas." With poker-faced Keely Smith's cool image and melodic vocals coupled with Prima's inspired clowning and factured Italian dialect scat singer augmented by the backing band of Sam Butera and the Witnesses, Prima would wail wildly into the wee hours of the morning.

A common misconception was the Louis Prima died after a 3-year coma, unresponsive and alone with no visitors. The truth is in the spring of 1975, he suffered terribly from severe headaches. Doctors eventually discovered that a benign tumor had taken root near his brain stem. Left untreated, the headaches and seizures would grow worse, and he would die. But surgery, too, was extremely risky, especially given the medical technology of 1975.

Prima opted to take his chances with the surgery. During the procedure, performed at Mount Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles by the same doctor who tried to save Robert Kennedy, a section of Prima’s brain was damaged. He fell into a “waking coma, ” conscious but unresponsive.

“He had his eyes open, and he could hear and see and understand, but he couldn’t respond back, ” Gia said. “He was shut off from any response whatsoever. If you told him to blink once for yes and twice for no, he would just blink, blink, blink.” Six months before he died, Prima finally closed his eyes and whatever tenuous grasp he had on consciousness slipped away. His last wife, Gia, stayed by his side and because he was fed through a tube inserted in his stomach, Louis looked like Louie before he passed away from pneumonia.

Cemetery Information:

Final Resting Place:

Metairie Cemetery

5100 Pontchartrain Blvd

New Orleans, Louisiana, 70124


North America


Grave Location:

Section 88, Lot 1 and 2

Grave Location Description

As you enter the cemetery drive over towards the old section with the large, above ground mausoleums. Located in Section 88 on Avenue B, look for the angel playing the trumpet atop the Prima Family mausoleum.

Grave Location GPS

29.98146899887, -90.11879704684

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