Harry James

Discussion in 'Jazz / Commercial' started by latinjazzcat, Feb 14, 2004.

  1. latinjazzcat

    latinjazzcat Pianissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    West Virginia
    Does anyone have any information about Harry James' life? I was reading a CD liner that said that, despite his cold public appearance and the lack of emotion, he had a softer, more sentimental side that very few realized. That's the only time I've heard that though, lol. Most everything else seems to sum up his life by saying he was a sad, misguided drunk. Listening to his playing, that's pretty hard to believe. So, anyone have any information, stories, etc.?
  2. Annie

    Annie Piano User

    Nov 13, 2003
    I read on a website that he found Frank Sinatra? Is that right?
  3. MPM

    MPM Pianissimo User

    Nov 10, 2003
    There are many books, and even a movie, about Sinatra's up-coming.

    Someone here will probably know better than I, however I think that Frank did sing with Harry James very early in his career. Then Tommy Dorsey ... the rest is history!
  4. bigaggietrumpet

    bigaggietrumpet Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 23, 2004
    Nazareth, PA
    While I'm hardly an expert on Harry James, I do know quite a bit.

    Yes, he was with Sinatra during Sinatra's early career, even recording some of Sinatra's better known pieces (the names elude me, I have them written down at home though). However, despite James' incredible talent and the flavor that he added to Sinatra during that time, Sinatra never really gave James the credit that a lot of people feel that he deserved, instead giving it to Tommy Dorsey (and I am NOT dissing Dorsey, he was awesome).

    I have never read anything about James being a drunk. I don't believe that one at all, but if I find out anything I'll be sure and let you know on this one. If I remember correctly, he did marry a very popular singer/actress named Betty Grable (I should really have gotten my notes down here from home, they're 4 hours away right now).

    REGARDLESS of his personal life, though, one fact is certain. Harry James was one of the greatest trumpets that ever lived. Playing with Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and other huge names, as well as his own orchestra, he created a reputation of trumpet power. He is one of the few people who could peel more paint off of a wall than Doc Severinsen, and that includes today's standards. He is definitely a worthy study, and if you need any help trying to track down his recordings, don't hesitate to let me know.
  5. Reverend

    Reverend Pianissimo User

    Nov 9, 2003
    Greater Houston area
    If I might add a thing or two...

    Harry Haag James was born on March 15, 1916 in Albany, GA. His mother, Mabel, was an aerial artist the the Mighty Haag circus. His father, Everette, was director for the circus tent show, as well as its featured trumpet player.

    It is alleged that Harry could play a pretty fair set of drums by the time he was four. Harry started the trumpet at the age of eight, being taught by his father. Only a year later, young James played well enough to take over a trumpet spot in his father's band. Not long after that, he was playing the best trumpet in the entire circus, and took over all the solos. By the time he was twleve, he was leading one of two Christy Circus bands.

    Harry's father was once interviewed, and stated that young James practiced at least 2 hours daily, during his young, formative years. Later in his career, the elder James stated that Harry practiced six hours a day...3 hours on fundamentals, and 3 hours on actual playing of music.

    Harry was "hired" by Benny Goodman, on 12/25/36, who asked him to take over a trumpet spot in his band. Harry joined the band on 1/12/37. When he joined BG, two other trumpet greats were working beside him - Dhris Griffin and Ziggy Elman.

    By the end of 1937, Harry's fame had so grown that he copped first place in the nationwide annual Down Beat musician popularity contact, beating such long-time favorites as Bunny Berigan, Louis Armstrong, and Roy Eldridge. This came as a surprise to everyone, especially because in the previous year's contests he hand't received a single vote!

    The first rehearsal of Harry's own band occurred on 1/5/39.

    Now, concerning Frank Sinatra...

    Frank first came to the attention of Harry in 1938 when Harry was still with BG. Harry and Dave Matthews used to sit around and listen to all-night radio shows. At the time, Frank had just begun his singing career with a job as a single at the Rustic Cabin, Englewood, NJ. When Harry heard Frank for the first time, he was so impressed by the quality of the young singer's voice that he stated to Matthews, "I don't know who that guy is, but If I ever get a band organized, he's going to be in it."

    In June of 1939, Frank, still working at the Cabin, heard that Bob Chester was building a band in NYC. Frank proceeded there and started rehearsing with the crew. At the same time, trombonist Jack Miles of Guy Lombardo's band was forming an outfit of his own and looking for a singer. Frank, just to be sure of getting one job, auditioned for the Miles band also. Meanwhile, Harry's band was already working and looking for a male singer. Having learned where Frank was working, Harry and several of the boys in his band took a trip over to Jersey and asked him if he'd like to go on the road with them. Possibly feeling that a band in the hand is worth 2 in rehearsal, Frank accepted Harry's offer on the spot!! So, Harry did indeed discover Frank, in the form of first giving Frank truly national exposure!

    Concerning the alcohol allegations, the link to the following article concerning the book about his life, may help answer those questions:


    Sorry for being so long-winded, but Harry is one of my favorite, if not THE favorite, trumpet players!

  6. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    A story I heard about Harry James...admittedly second hand. Our community band had invited a guest conductor, a military band director, to come down as a "special guest" for one of our Remembrance Day concerts. We got this fellow sitting around having dinner and a beer after the concert and he told us that when he was a playing musician (before he was awarded his "single stick"), he was stationed in a place where it was only about a three hour drive to where Harry was having a concert. Needless to say he and three of his buddies drove down (they were all trumpet players) to take in the concert.

    As it happened, he managed to get some "ear time" with Harry and found out that Harry had a particular penchant; when he was on the road he insisted that his hotel have a swimming pool. Why? Because he swam laps underwater to keep his air and body in shape for playing. Now, that doesn't seem to fit in with the story that Harry was a "lover of the lager"... and might even be "stretching the truth a little"... so don't take it as "gospel".
  7. Anonymous

    Anonymous Forte User

    Oct 21, 2003
    Trumpet Blues

    The biography of Harry James.
    A very well written book and fascinating read.
    It goes into Harry, early days in Texas in great detail.
    Little known fact:--most of Harry's first band were guys
    from Texas(Dallas and Houston).
    And ,Yes Harry James did have a drinking problem.
    Read the book ,it tells all.
    It was written by his long time personal manager,
    sorry but his name escapes me -- Peter something.
  8. Anonymous

    Anonymous Forte User

    Oct 21, 2003
    Sorry , the title of the book is TRUMPET BLUES!!
  9. olbrneyes

    olbrneyes Pianissimo User

    Mar 12, 2007
    Portland, OR
    I knew Harry, having met him for the first time when I was 16 in Miami, Fla in 1970. Harry was a serious alcoholic. He was strangely enough the only trumpet player I ever saw who played great when he was drunk! He was also a hell of a drummer. He would perform at least one number on drums almost every night in a dance. He would have been a major drummer had he chosen that instrument. He was an incredibly self-centered man. However the guys in his bands over the years respected his abilities greatly. And yes, he did discover Frank Sinatra.

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