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Louis Prima’s Widow Sues

March 7, 2002

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) _ Louis Prima’s widow has sued a Canadian music company, alleging it has not paid royalties due the estate of the Grammy-winning composer.

Gia Prima’s lawyer, Anthony Sylvester of Morristown, filed the lawsuit in Superior Court in Ocean County on Feb. 15. The lawsuit against Unidisc Music Inc. is the fourth the Island Heights woman has filed over the use of her deceased husband’s music.

Prima is asking a judge to declare her the owner of her husband’s master tapes and rescind the company’s rights to the music if it fails to pay.

A Unidisc representative told The Star-Ledger of Newark it has not released any of the singer’s recordings, and so far there is no need to pay royalties.

Louis Prima, whose career spanned four decades, had hits with ``Jump, Jive An’ Wail″ and ``Buono Sera.″ After divorcing singer Keely Smith, he met the then-Gia Maione in 1962 when she won a spot performing in his band at an audition in Cherry Hill. They were married in 1963. Prima died in 1978.

Quebec-based Unidisc, which specializes in older recordings, acquired Prima’s songs at auction in 2000 after a Minnesota company, Simitar Entertainment Inc., went bankrupt. The singer’s widow had unsuccessfully tried to obtain royalties from Simitar before its bankruptcy.

In the past few years, Mrs. Prima has sued the Disney Corporation, Campbell Soup Co. and Darden Restaurants Inc., the parent company of The Olive Garden chain, over use of her husband’s songs. Those lawsuits have been settled.

The lawsuit against Disney came from the home video and DVD release of the 1967 animated feature, ``The Jungle Book.″ Prima played the part of King Louie of the Apes and recorded ``I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song).″

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