All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Harry James

Harry James Harry James

One of the most popular bandleaders of the wartime era, Harry James is best remembered today for his colorful 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 colorful, 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.

Read more

Tags

Photos

Albums

Watch

Similar

Frank Sinatra Frank Sinatra
voice / vocals
Benny Goodman Benny Goodman
clarinet
Glenn Miller Glenn Miller
trombone
Roy Eldridge Roy Eldridge
trumpet
Artie Shaw Artie Shaw
clarinet
Woody Herman Woody Herman
band/orchestra
Cab Calloway Cab Calloway
composer/conductor
Tommy Dorsey Tommy Dorsey
trombone
Charlie Barnet Charlie Barnet
composer/conductor
Jimmie Lunceford Jimmie Lunceford
composer/conductor
Jimmy Dorsey Jimmy Dorsey
composer/conductor

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.

MUSICSTACK
Rare vinyl LPs and CDs from over 1,000 independent sellers
AMAZON
CDs, Vinyl, Blu-Ray DVDS, Prime membership, Alexa, SONOS and more
HD TRACKS
Specializing in high resolution and CD-quality downloads
CD UNIVERSE
Specializing in music, movies and video games
REVERB
Marketplace for new, used, and vintage instruments and gear

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.