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Keely Smith
Keely SmithInducted 2003
Norfolk
Jazz

Born: March 9, 1932

Likes all sports, dancing, singing . . . Ambition: to be a singer

These words accompanied the senior picture of Dorothy Jacqueline Keely in her Maury High School yearbook. Dot Keely, now Keely Smith, has more than realized her childhood ambition. It is appropriate to honor this Legend of Music with a star in the 300 block of Granby Street in downtown Norfolk, where it could be argued that her career began. As an eleven year-old, she performed regularly with the Joe Brown Radio Gang, broadcast each Saturday from the nearby Norva Theater. Four years later, an audition at a bond rally around the corner on Freemason Street led to jobs with local ensembles led by Saxie Dowell and Earl Bennett.

That big break that every performer dreams of came along in 1948. She was at the beach in her bathing suit and had to borrow a skirt and blouse for a surprise audition with Louis Prima’s orchestra at the Virginia Beach Surf Club. Keely earned her a spot as the band’s soloist and catapulted a career as a performer and recording artist. Smith and Prima often worked as a duo in the 50s, until she made her solo debut in Las Vegas in 1962.

With her enduring voice and personality, Keely Smith continues to actively perform today. Her most recent albums include “Keely Sings Sinatra” and “Keely Swings Basie Style.”