Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith Dies On Cruise Ship At Age 68

Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith, one half of the R&B duo, the Checkmates, has died. He was 68.

"His name was really fitting," said fellow Las Vegas entertainer and close friend, Nelson Sardelli, 73.

"He was really a sweet guy, a generous guy and was loved and will be missed by many."

Smith died Saturday aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean, where he was performing.

Smith's counterpart was Sonny Charles, a friend since childhood in Fort Wayne, Ind.

He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he was too heartbroken to say much.

But he said Smith spent some of his last moments doing what had brought him the most joy: performing.

The two had served in the Army together under the late-1950s "buddy system," touring in the entertainment division of the Army's Special Services, after which they set their sights on Las Vegas.

The act took off in 1964, when the Checkmates started performing at the Pussycat A Go Go, located on what is now the site of the Wynn Las Vegas resort.

The group went on to perform at the Sands and Caesars Palace.

The duo's best-known recordings include "Love is All I Have to Give" and a remake of "Proud Mary."

But 1969's Phil Spector-produced "Black Pearl" was their most successful single, a Top 10 hit.

The Checkmates had played their most recent show in southern
Nevada a few weeks ago, said Mike Moloney, one of Smith's agents.

Smith, a longtime Las Vegas resident, was key to the Checkmates' popularity as a live act, Moloney said.

"He was just one of those guys when you walked in the room, he brought a smile to your face," Moloney said. "I never saw him down."

Smith was a contemporary of some of the greatest performers of all time, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Bill Cosby, Moloney said.

"As a historical reference, Las Vegas was the first place in the world where every night was Saturday night," Moloney said.

"Louie kind of coined that phrase. No matter what night it was, it was Saturday night when the Checkmates were there."

Some of the duo's highlights included performing with Sinatra at the Oakland Coliseum, a concert at Madison Square Garden with Herb Alpert and singing the national anthem for the "Thrilla in Manila," the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight championship boxing match in the Philippines.

The Checkmates were inducted into the Las Vegas Hall of Fame in 2000.

Smith is survived by his wife, Linda.

Services are scheduled Saturday in Las Vegas.


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