Paul Ferrara was a drummer who played with Louis Prima, Frank Sinatra, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt and other greats during a 65-year career. Paul died Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at his home in Kenner. He was 76.
Born in the French Quarter of New Orleans to Sicilian immigrant parents, Paul Ferrara began playing drums at the age of 11 or 13. He studied under Al Pollack.
As a teenager, he also played with George Girard, the Assunto brothers, Earl Williams, and Sam Butera, who later became Prima's saxophonist.
Like Prima and Butera, Paul Ferrara's music career later took him to Las Vegas, where he was a regular performer from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Paul Ferrara's distinctive drum sound can be heard on two versions of classic Prima recordings: "Sing Sing Sing" and "Old Black Magic."
Among the other music greats he performed with over the years are Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holliday. Later in his career, Ferrara also performed for four U.S. presidents at the White House. He also played frequently at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
As an Italian-American musician, Paul Ferrara was part of the last generation of New Orleans jazz musicians who not only played with 1920s legends such as Santo Pecora and Sharkey Bonano, but was also part of the jazz revival of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Paul Ferrara's distinct drumming style, which included the mastery of the left handed shuffle, can be heard on hundreds of recordings, and could be seen in television appearances on such programs as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Dinah Shore Show.
Paul Ferrara was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, one of only two "side men" to receive such honor.