Magic at the Monteleone

If it is a Carousel Bar passenger’s lucky day, they may just have the fortune of partaking in the musical magic of Lena Prima & Band. 

The youngest daughter of New Orleans icon-Louis Prima, Lena Prima has graced the Carousel Bar & Lounge for the past 11 years. 

“I sang as a child with my dad, but professionally I started at age 19.” Until age 19, Prima’s performances were limited to moments in the car alongside her childhood friends. 

“I was going to beauty school-my mom was not supportive of me having a music career, but I really wanted to be a singer,” Prima said. Between learning the ins and outs of coloring, cutting, and bleaching hair, Lena heard through the grapevine that a rock band was looking for their next lead singer. “All my friends went, you have to audition for this band. I auditioned in my car, and he said, “you need to come in.”

Prima said, “I was underage, and they were sneaking me in the back door of these rock clubs, I was singing in rock bands starting at 19 and I just loved it so much. I would just sneak in behind my mom’s back, and I got in big trouble but I just didn’t care because it was what I was supposed to be doing.” In the blink of an eye, Lena was performing alongside her rock heroes Sammy Hagar and Geoff Workman. It was the late 80s and 90s, and grunge was coming onto the scene. 

In the interest of making a living wage as a full-time musician, Lena entered the lounge band scene of Las Vegas. Reflecting on her time in Vegas, Prima said, “you kind of get stuck in that, in a way, because the money’s good, and you’re working six nights a week, five and six shows a night, every week. It was grueling, but also you’re just in the flow of it. I learned a lot.” 

Prima did not view the lounge band scene as her final destination as an artist. She waxed poetic about her days performing alongside rock musicians and having the freedom to truly “rock out” with her audience. 

On Jan. 12, 2012, Lena Prima began her residency at the Carousel Bar & Lounge. Prima said, “I loved it from the minute I sang my first note. From the minute I sang my first note, I was in heaven.” Her time at the Carousel Bar immediately reminded her of the rock-n-roll days that she longed for while performing for quiet, seated audiences in Vegas. Prima said, “everybody is just having a good time. People are there for different reasons, celebrating birthdays, celebrating weddings, bachelorette parties, their first time in New Orleans. I felt immediately connected to this lounge and this place, like I was meant to be doing this, here.”

Each night that Prima takes the stage, she encounters people from all over the world. Each night, she prizes her ability to bring amusement and delight to a different group of individuals. Prima said, “if someone says to me, ‘I had the best time ever’, or ‘this is why I came to New Orleans,’ I go home feeling like I did my job, and that’s why I’m on the planet.” A certain gusto and joie de vivre seemed to emanate from her words. 

Prima has always focused on seeing the magic in the music business. Her sense of whimsy and her love for magic-making moments perfectly complement the structure that is the namesake of the Carousel Bar & Lounge. If, on a Thursday or Saturday night in New Orleans one is in need of an extra dose of whimsy or enchantment, Lena Prima & Band will be patiently awaiting your arrival at the Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone.


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