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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Harry James born 15 March 1916



Harry Haag James (March 15, 1916 – July 5, 1983) was a popular American musician and band leader, and a well-known trumpet virtuoso. One of the most popular bandleaders of the wartime era, Harry James is best remembered today for his colourful trumpet playing and as the husband of pin-up girl Betty Grable.  

Born in a run-down hotel next to the city jail in Albany, Georgia, Harry's parents were circus performers -- his mother a trapeze artist and his father the bandleader. James began playing drums at age seven and took up the trumpet at ten, performing for the Christy Brothers circus band.  

James' family later settled in Beaumont, Texas, and he began playing for local dance bands while in high school. In 1935 he joined Ben Pollack's orchestra, leaving in December 1936 for Benny Goodman. During his time with Goodman, James became very popular with the jazz crowd for his colourful, ear-shattering, trumpet playing. He became so popular that when he decided to leave Goodman in December 1938 to form his own band Goodman himself financed the outfit. 

Harry James and His Music Makers debuted in February 1939 at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. They made their first recordings for Brunswick. Connie Haines was the female vocalist. In June of that year James hired an inexperienced Frank Sinatra as his male vocalist.  

The orchestra did well in New York, but its high-swinging sound wasn't well-received outside the city. A trip to Los Angeles proved financially disastrous, and the band struggled to make it through a booking at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. Tommy Dorsey was in Chicago at the same time and was having problems with his male vocalist. He offered Sinatra a job. With Sinatra's wife expecting and the band's financial future uncertain James let him go. He was soon replaced by Dick Haymes, who went on to become one of the top male vocalists of the era.   
 
In early 1940 James began recording with Varsity, a minor label. Although his records weren't selling well with the public he was greatly admired by other musicians. James, however, wasn't content with his financial picture and decided to adopt a new sound. He announced he was adding a string section. Horrified reactions from the jazz crowd convinced him to abandon the idea. However, in 1941 when he signed with Columbia the label's A&R director made the same suggestion. James followed through and recorded several schmaltzy ballads and semi-classical selections, including the now famous ''You Made Me Love You.'' Though jazz fans cringed the new sound proved popular with the public, and the band was on its way to stardom.  
 
 
                              
 
Haymes left the band in 1942, replaced by Johnny McAfee as lead male vocalist. James had gone through a string of female vocalists -- Haines, Helen Ward, Dell Parker, Bernice Byers, and Lynn Richards -- until he hired Helen Forrest in 1941. She turned out to be one of his most valuable assets. With Harry's sentimental horn and Helen's emotional singing the band was at its peak and soon began to receive movie offers.  

While working in Hollywood, James met actress Betty Grable. Though James was married to vocalist Louise Tobin at the time he fell in love with Grable and divorced Tobin. James and Grable were married on July 5, 1943. Shortly thereafter Forrest left the orchestra to begin a solo career. Helen Ward was brought back to replace her. Buddy DeVito was male vocalist. Around that time Harry's band began to suffer from the draft. James himself, who had been originally classified 4-F, was in danger of being reclassified as fit for duty. When he was called to take his physical in February 1944 he put the band on notice, and his radio sponsor cancelled his program. James was reclassified 4-F again, however, and he called back together some of his old personnel.  

The new orchestra continued to be successful, with Kitty Kallen as its featured vocalist, but Harry's interest were turning away from music. He had become a regular cast member on Danny Kaye's radio series, and he and Betty were devoting a great deal of time to raising their racehorses. He began to perform less and less. 

When the bottom fell out of the band business in 1946 James called it quits. He didn't stay away for long however. He formed a new outfit the following year and continued to lead bands off and on until his death. 

In 1983, James, a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, but he continued to work, playing his last professional job on June 26, 1983, in Los Angeles, just nine days before his death in Las Vegas, Nevada. The job had become his final performance with the Harry James Orchestra. He died exactly 40 years after his marriage to Betty Grable (July 5, 1943), who was buried exactly 30 years after that date (July 5, 1973). Frank Sinatra gave the eulogy at his funeral, held in Las Vegas. . (info mainly from parabrisas.com)
 

2 comments:

boppinbob said...

For “Harry JAMES & His Orch. - I've Heard That Song Before - The Hits Of Harry James” go here:

Disc One - https://www.sendspace.com/file/21e6r1

1. YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU
2. I'VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE
3. BACK BEAT BOOGIE
4. THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE
5. STRICTLY INSTRUMENTAL
6. I'LL BUY THAT DREAM
7. STOMPIN' AT THE SAVOY
8. THE FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLE BEE
9. CRAZY RHYTHM
10. HE'S 1-A IN THE ARMY AND HE'S A-1 IN MY HEART
11. ONE O'CLOCK JUMP
12. MUSIC MAKERS
13. JAMES SESSION
14. MY SILENT LOVE
15. JEFFRIE'S BLUES
16. FLATBUSH FLANAGAN
17. CONCERTO FOR TRUMPET
18. I CRIED FOR YOU
19. TRUMPET RHAPSODY, Part 1
20. TRUMPET RHAPSODY, Part 2
21. AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
22. BUT NOT FOR ME
23. CROSS COUNTRY JUMP
24. JUMP TOWN

Disc Two - https://www.sendspace.com/file/dqo4r3

1. TRUMPET BLUES & CANTABILE
2. THE MOLE
3. SEPTEMBER SONG
4. I'LL GET BY (b)
5. MOTEN SWING Part 1
6. MOTEN SWING Part 2
7. FEET DRAGGIN' BLUES
8. I HAD THE CRAZIEST DREAM
9. TWO O'CLOCK JUMP
10. YES, INDEED!
11. I'M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT
12. CHERRY
13. FLASH
14. SKYLARK
15. B-19
16. ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL v. Frank Sinatra
17. DODGERS' FAN DANCE
18. SLEEPY TIME GAL
19. RECORD SESSION
20. IT'S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME
21. SLEEPY LAGOON
22. I DON'T WANT TO WALK WITHOUT YOU
23. SHARP AS A TACK
24. 9:20 SPECIAL
25. CIRIBIRIBIN

Harry James was, along with many other more well known artists of the WWII era, (Ie. Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey) a pioneer of swing in its rawest form. The basic foundations of his blues inspired compositions have been the baseboard of jump jivin' dancehall swing that we here all over the radio today and emulated by modern artists such as the Stray Cats and a myriad of Rockabilly groups heretofore and everything in between. James took this genre to the nth degree, and went all over the map with it, but never becoming blasé or redundant. He had an inimitable knack for composing low-slung bluesy trumpet laden instrumentals right alongside jazz infused swinging jump jive and on into Doris Day backed vocal ballads, as can be heard on the wonderful soundtrack to the movie Young Man with a Horn which featured James' Orchestra and the man's wildly talented trumpet virtuoso. James' music inspired more than this wonderful musician was ever given credit for, and any lover of the swing era would be amiss to not listen to, and discover what this awesome musician gave to us. – Jasmine notes.

zephyr said...

One of my favourite Big Bands Bob and a really good bio I had no idea he was married to Betty Grable