Saxophone genius, Louis Prima sideman and Las Vegas legend Sam Butera died yesterday at 81.
Sam was a good friend of ours. We first met him in 1989, while we were with Jerry Lewis as he geared up for his Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular dystrophy and he was playing the Tropicana with his band, The Wildest.
Sam was not only a masterful, pioneering R&B, jazz and rock 'n' roll musician, he was an example of the best and most loyal friend a man could have. More than a decade after Louis Prima's death and three decades after he made history with Louis, Keely Smith and the Witnesses at the Casbar Lounge at the Sahara Hotel, Sam kept the legend alive leading his band The Wildest through a Prima tribute show that carried on the rollicking, rocking, swinging, bluesy, hilarious tradition that only begins with Just A Gigolo.
Sam closed every show with When The Saints Go Marching In, walking through the aisles playing with one hand and shaking hands with the other.
Rafael Abramovitz was the one who observed that Sam had the incredible ability to play his saxophone and smile all the while.
Sam told us something that we've carried with us every since:
"It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice."