Gia Maione Prima
(May 20, 1941 – September 23, 2013)
Gia Maione Prima (“Gia”) was an American singer and widow of singer Louis Prima.
Gia was born May 20, 1941 in Roebling, New Jersey. From the early age of 3, she demonstrated both an interest and an aptitude for music. At age 4, she began 17 years of piano and extensive vocal training under Alma Steedman, Choir Director at Westminster Choir College at Princeton University.
Upon graduation in June 1959 from Toms River High in New Jersey, she received the National Arion Society Award in Music. With intent to attend Julliard School of Music in New York City, Gia worked at the local Howard Johnsons Restaurant to save money for the tuition and to continue her vocal and piano instruction.
Gia Maione Prima rose to popularity in 1962, when she was selected to sing lead female vocals for Louis Prima and his band, The Witnesses. Her rich voice was an ideal match for Prima’s rugged jazz riffs. The next 12 years were a whirlwind of live performances in Las Vegas at the Sahara Hotel, Sands Hotel, Tropicana Hotel; in New York at the Copacabana and Basin Street East and across the country. She also appeared regularly on television on such shows as Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin. She recorded for Capitol Records in 1962, and thereafter released her debut album – “This is Gia” in 1965.
On February 12, 1963, Gia married Louis Prima. Their union produced two children Lena and Louis Jr. She worked closely with Louis in creating the Prima Magnagroove record label in that same year. She and Louis recorded many classic albums and singles for their label from 1963 through 1975 which included 14 albums and numerous singles for Capitol Records, Disney Records, DeLite Label, Brunswick Records and Prima label. The couple performed and recorded together until Prima fell ill in 1975.
In October 1975, while undergoing an operation in Los Angeles to remove a benign brain tumor, Prima lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness. He died nearly three years later on August 24, 1978. After Louis’ passing, Gia assumed control of the Prima archives, and managed his vast musical legacy. She dedicated herself to remastering and re-releasing Prima’s work. Among her other duties, Gia Prima handled the licensing of Prima’s work for television, film and advertising such as the very memorable use of “Jump, Jive and Wail” for the Gap Khakis Swing ads of the late 1990’s.
Professionally, Gia volunteered for many benefit charities and telethons and sponsored many golf tournaments to benefit charities. She was inducted in the Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame in 2004. She created the Louis Prima ASCAP Foundation Award and operated Prima Music, LLC, which released previously unavailable Prima titles. The company also operated and LGL Music Publishing Co.
In 2011, Gia Prima with the assistance of long-time friend and counsel, Anthony J. Sylvester of Sherman Wells Sylvester & Stamelman, LLP established the Gia Maione Prima Foundation, Inc. for the purpose of making donations to other tax-exempt organizations that support and encourage an appreciation for American Jazz, American popular music and jazz performance.
Gia Maione Prima died on September 23, 2013. She is buried alongside her husband Louis Prima at Lakelawn Metaireie Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana.