Harry James

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Harry James
Harry James Billboard 4.jpg
Background information
Birth name Harry Haag James
Born (1916-03-15)March 15, 1916
Albany, Georgia, United States
Died July 5, 1983(1983-07-05) (aged 67)
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Genres Jazz, big band, swing music
Occupation(s) Musician, bandleader
Years active 1933-1983
Associated acts Frank Sinatra, Ben Pollack, Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Helen Forrest

Harry Haag James (March 15, 1916 – July 5, 1983) was an American musician who is best known as a trumpet playing band leader who led a big band from 1939 to 1946. He broke up his band for a short period in 1947 but shortly after he re-organized his band and was active again with his band from then until his death in 1983. He was especially known among musicians for his astonishing technical proficiency as well as his superior tone, and was extremely influential on up and coming trumpet players from the late 1930s into the 1940s. He was also an actor in a number of motion pictures that usually featured his bands in some way.

Early life

From left: Stan "Cuddles" Johnson, Fraser MacPherson, Bob Smith, Harry James, Al Johnson, Stew Barnett. (The Cave Supper Club, May 1970)
From left: Harry James, Lucille Ball, Betty Grable. (The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show, 1958)

Harry James was born in Albany, Georgia,[1] the son of Myrtle Maybelle (Stewart), an acrobat and horseback rider, and Everett Robert James, a bandleader in a traveling circus, the Haag Circus. According to the Bill Sterns Sports Newsreel broadcast on September 12, 1942, on which James appeared, he was saved from being trampled, at the age of 6, by his mother's horse after performing with the horse.[2] By the age of 10 he was taking trumpet lessons from his father, who placed him on a strict daily practice schedule. Each day, James was given one page to learn from the Arban's book and was not allowed to pursue any other pastime until he had learned that particular page.

Career

In 1931, his family settled in Beaumont, Texas. It was here, at 15 years of age, that James began playing in local dance bands. James played regularly with Herman Waldman's band, and at one performance was noticed by nationally popular Ben Pollack.[3] In 1935 he joined Pollack's band, but at the start of 1937 left to join Benny Goodman's orchestra, where he stayed through 1938. He was nicknamed "The Hawk" early in his career for his ability to sight-read. A common joke was that if a fly landed on his written music, Harry James would play it. His low range had a warmth associated with the cornet and even the flugelhorn, but this sound was underrecorded in favor of James' brilliant high register. For James' contribution to the recording industry, in 1960, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

With financial backing from Goodman,[4] in January 1939 James debuted his own big band in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but it didn't click until 1941 when he added a string section.[5] This big band became known as Harry James and His Music Makers.[6] His hit "You Made Me Love You" was in the Top 10 during the week of December 7, 1941.[7] He was in two featured roles in two films, Private Buckaroo and Springtime in the Rockies. He toured with the band into the 1980s. He started recording with the minor label Varsity in 1940.[8] To this day the Harry James Orchestra still exists, now led by Fred Radke.[9]

Bandleader

His was the first "name band" to employ vocalist Frank Sinatra, in 1939. James signed Sinatra to a one year contract, of which Sinatra worked seven months before going to sing for Tommy Dorsey[10] He wanted to change Sinatra's name to 'Frankie Satin' but Sinatra refused.[citation needed] His later band included drummer Buddy Rich. His featured vocalist was Helen Forrest.[10] Johnny MacAfee was featured on the sax and vocals and Corky Corcoran was a youthful sax prodigy.

Radio

His orchestra succeeded Glenn Miller's on a program sponsored by Chesterfield Cigarettes in 1942, when Miller disbanded his orchestra to enter the Army. In 1945, James and his orchestra had a summer replacement program for Danny Kaye's program on CBS.[11]

A major reason James disbanded his big band group in 1946 was lack of income, so James decided to call it quits.[8] After disbanding his band, he continued his career in a smaller jazz group, Harry James and His Music Makers.[12]

Film

He played trumpet in the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn,[13] dubbing Kirk Douglas. In the album from that movie, he backed Doris Day and the album charted at #1. James's recording of "I'm Beginning to See the Light" appears in the motion picture My Dog Skip (2000). His music is also featured in the Woody Allen film Hannah and Her Sisters. James recorded many popular records and appeared in many Hollywood movies.

Personal life

James was married three times. He married singer Louise Tobin on May 4, 1935, and they had two children. They divorced in 1943.[2] That same year, he married actress Betty Grable. They had two daughters, Victoria and Jessica, before divorcing in 1965. James married a third time on December 27, 1967 [14][15] to Las Vegas showgirl Joan Boyd, whom he would divorce in March 1970. Contrary to some assertions, he did not marry a fourth time. He had five children (two by Tobin, two by Grable, one by Boyd) and (as of his death) 16 grandchildren.

James owned several thoroughbred racehorses that won races such as the California Breeders' Champion Stakes (1951) and the San Vicente Stakes (1954). He was also a founding investor in the Atlantic City Race Course. His knowledge of horse racing was demonstrated during a 1958 appearance on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour entitled "Lucy Wins A Racehorse".[16]

Final years

In 1983, James was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, but he continued to work, playing his last professional job on June 26, 1983, in Los Angeles, California, just nine days before his death in Las Vegas, Nevada.[1][17] The job had become his final performance with the Harry James Orchestra.[6] 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.[17]

Filmography

Singles

Albums

  • Boogie Woogie (Columbia Records – C44, 1941, compilation)[24]
  • Young Man with a Horn (soundtrack) (Columbia Records – CL 6106, 1950)[25]
  • Wild About Harry! (Capitol Records – ST 874, 1957)[26]
  • Trumpet Rhapsody (Harmony/Columbia, collection of singles from the 1940s, released ca. 1958)
  • The New James (Capitol Records – ST 1037, 1958)[27]
  • Harry's Choice! (Capitol Records – ST 1093, 1958)[28]
  • Harry James and His New Swingin' Band (MGM, 1959)
  • Harry James...Today! (MGM, 1960)
  • Requests On-The-Road (MGM, 1961)
  • The Spectacular Sound of Harry James (MGM, 1961)
  • Harry James Plays Neal Hefti (MGM, 1961)
  • The King James Version (Sheffield Lab – LAB-3, 1976)[29]
  • Comin' From A Good Place (Sheffield Lab – LAB-6, 1977)[30]
  • Still Harry After All These Years (Sheffield Lab – LAB-11, 1979)[31]

Awards

Grammy Hall of Fame

As of 2016, two recordings of Harry James had been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."

Harry James Grammy Hall of Fame Awards[32]
Year recorded Title genre Label Year inducted
1942 Trumpet Blues and Cantabile Jazz (Album) Columbia 1999
1941 You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It) Pop (Single) Columbia 2010

Readers' Polls

Metronome magazine conducted annual readers' polls for their readers to choose who they considered to be the top jazz musician on each instrument for the year. The winners were invited to join an ensemble known as the Metronome All-Stars that was assembled for studio recordings. The studio sessions were held in the years 1939-42, 1946–53, and 1956, and typically resulted in two tracks which allowed each participant a chance to solo for one chorus. Harry James was chosen to play trumpet with the Metronome All-Stars for the years 1939, 1940 and 1941.

In a similar annual poll conducted by Downbeat magazine, James was chosen by Downbeat's readers as the best trumpet instrumentalist for the years 1937,[33] 1938[34] and 1939,[35] and as favorite soloist for 1942.[36]

Honors and inductions

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, on February 8, 1960 Harry James was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6683 Hollywood Blvd.[37]

Pedagogical writings

  • Harry James Studies & Improvisations for Trumpet, Harry James, ed. Elmer F. Gottschalk, New York: Robbins Music, 1939
  • Harry James Trumpet Method, Harry James, Everette James, ed. Jay Arnold, New York: Robbins Music, 1941

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Dead Rock Stars Club". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved July 17, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 William Ruhlmann. "Harry James | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-08-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Harry James and his big band. Touchoftonga.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  4. Gilliland 1994, tape 2, side B.
  5. Billboard, July 18, 1942
  6. 6.0 6.1 James, Harry (Haag) – Jazz.com | Jazz Music – Jazz Artists – Jazz News. Jazz.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  7. "The Official Site of the Harry James Orchestra". Harryjamesband.com. 2015-05-10. Retrieved 2015-08-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 [1] Archived November 24, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. "The Life of Harry James". Fredradke.com. Retrieved 2015-08-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value). Tape 1, side A.
  11. "Radio". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. June 7, 1945. p. 21. Retrieved April 15, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> open access publication - free to read
  12. Harry James: Information from. Answers.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  13. "Harry James". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-08-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. UPI wirestory published nationally Dec.28, 1967
  15. AP wirephoto published nationally Dec.28, 1967
  16. "The Lucy Desi Comedy Hour Lucy Wins A Racehorse". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-08-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Harry Haag James (1916 - 1983) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2015-08-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Harry James And His Orchestra – Night Special / Back Beat Boogie". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Orodenker, M.H. (February 7, 1942). "On the Records" (PDF). Billboard. Retrieved 28 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 23. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 27/8. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 21. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 25. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Various – Boogie Woogie". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Columbia 10-inch Album Discography, Part 2: Main Series (CL 6100 to CL 6199) 1950- 1952". Both Sides Now Publications. Retrieved 2015-12-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Harry James And His Orchestra – Wild About Harry". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Harry James And His Orchestra – The New James". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Harry James And His Orchestra – Harry's Choice". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Harry James & His Big Band – The King James Version". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Harry James – Comin' From A Good Place". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Harry James & His Big Band – Still Harry After All These Years". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-12-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "Grammy Hall of Fame List". Grammy.org. Retrieved 2015-12-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "1937 DownBeat Readers Poll". Downbeat Magazine. Retrieved 2015-12-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. "1938 DownBeat Readers Poll". Downbeat Magazine. Retrieved 2015-12-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "1939 DownBeat Readers Poll". Downbeat Magazine. Retrieved 2015-12-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "1942 DownBeat Readers Poll". Downbeat Magazine. Retrieved 2015-12-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "Harry James". Official Website, Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 2015-12-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links