SONG: Just a Gigolo
ARTIST: Louis Prima
Listen to it here:
The original lyrics were written in German (“Schoner gigolo, armer gigolo”) by Julius Brammer in 1924 with melody to follow in 1928 from Leonello Casucci. It was adapted into English in 1929 by Irving Caesar and featured in various films and cartoons until its big break in 1956 when it was recorded by Louis Prima. Prima paired it with the old standard “I Ain’t Got Nobody” from 1915, and the mixture of the 2 songs was so iconic that when David Lee Roth recorded the song in 1984, people thought it was just one song instead of two put together. The song became Louis Prima’s signature, and a line from it was inscribed on his headstone.
For more on Louis Prima, check out our review of his album The Wildest!
Unlike other crooners of his time (I’m looking at you Frank Sinatrsa) Prima fully embraced rock and roll music.
What can I say about this song that I haven’t already addressed in our album review of the Wildest? Anyway, this song is so fun, cool, and quirky. I love Louis Prima’s husky voice, full of character, and will ALWAYS remind me of his voice role as King Louis from Disney’s The Jungle Book. His scatting is so original and different from the usual ‘doo bee scoot doo’ that we’re used to other jazz singers. I love the back up singers and how tight they are with their harmonies, but also with sneaking in their ‘gigolo gigolo gigolo’ behind Louis. As mentioned in my previous review, I love that tight chord they all sing together on the “I” of “cos – IIIIIIIIIIIII ain’t got nobody!’ Still don’t know what kind of chord that is. The band balance is perfect, and I love the sound of the sax during the instrumental section. I added the Wildest to my Discogs wantlist when we reviewed the album, and I think it’s still worth buying.
We already covered this song a bit when we reviewed the album that it was on, Louis Prima’s The Wildest. I have to say, that album was really fun and this song is still a joy to listen to. It’s laid back and chill, but still very tight and shows some real skill from all the musicians involved. I love Louis’ voice and how it’s just a little husky. He takes some great liberties while still sounding totally in command of his voice and his band. The background singers, though to modern ears still sound kind of old fashioned, are totally vital to this song, which is always a big pleasure to hear. Sometimes I feel like background vocals are thrown in for extra colour or oomph, but in this instance the song would be much weaker without them. I also love that the song kicks up several notches with the tenor sax solo and how the drums react to this change in gears by getting really splashy with the cymbals. The tenor sax and trombone solos are nothing fancy or complex, but are simply totally right for this song. After moving on past this album for a few months, this was a really nice revisit and I’m still flipping through record crates looking for this album!
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
Otto Fassel’s 1929 German version:
Maybe the version more people are familiar with, David Lee Roth:
Listen with us!
Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist:
Link to the Best of the Best 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: