Henry Haag “Harry” James (March 15, 1916 – July 5, 1983) was an American musician and bandleader. James was an instrumentalist of the swing era, employing a bravura playing style that made his trumpet work identifiable. He was one of the most popular bandleaders of the first half of the 1940s, and he continued to lead his band until just before his death, 40 years later.
He was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of a bandleader of a traveling circus. 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.
In 1931 the family settled in Beaumont, Texas, where James began playing with local dance bands.
He joined the nationally popular Ben Pollack in 1935 but at the start of 1937, left Pollack to join Benny Goodman's orchestra, where he stayed through 1938.
From left: Stan "Cuddles" Johnson, Fraser MacPherson, Bob Smith, Harry James, Al Johnson, Stew Barnett. (The Cave Supper Club, May 1970)
In February 1939 James debuted his own big band in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His hit "You Made Me Love You" was in the Top 10 during the week of December 7, 1941. He toured with the band into the 1980s.
His was the first "name band" to employ vocalist Frank Sinatra, in 1939. He wanted to change Sinatra's name to 'Frankie Satin' but Sinatra refused. His later band included drummer Buddy Rich.
He played trumpet in the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn, dubbing Kirk Douglas. 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.
He was second only to Glenn Miller as the most successful recording artist of 1942.
James was married three times. On May 4, 1935, he married singer Louise Tobin, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1943. That same year, he married actress Betty Grable. They had two daughters, Victoria and Jessica, before divorcing in 1965. James married a third time in 1968 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.
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. Frank Sinatra gave the eulogy at the Bunkers Eden Vale Memorial Park in Las Vegas.
In 2007, a personally owned and stage-played custom made trumpet formerly owned by both James and trumpeter Joe Cabot was sold at auction for a mid five-figure amount. It was played by both men while they toured together from 1979–1982 in the musical review The Big Broadcast of 1944.
Harry Haag James (Albany, 15 de marzo de 1916 – 5 de julio de 1983) fue un director de big band y trompetista estadounidense.
Hijo de un director de orquesta de un circo itinerante, a la edad de 10 años recibió lecciones de trompeta de su padre, que le sometió a una dura disciplina musical, utilizando para ello el método Arban.
En 1931 la familia se trasladó a Beaumont (Texas) y James empezó a tocar con orquestas locales de baile. Se unió al popular Ben Pollack en 1935 y a comienzos de 1937 se unió a la orquesta de Benny Goodman.
En febrero de 1939, Harry James debutó con su propia big band en Philadelphia, con la que seguría trabajando hasta los años ochenta. La suya fue la primera orquesta en la que trabajó empleado de forma continuada Frank Sinatra (en 1939).
En 1943 se casó con la actriz Betty Grable.
Se le puede oír tocar la trompeta en la película de 1950 Young Man with a Horn, doblando a Kirk Douglas. Su grabación de "I'm Beginning to See the Light" aparece en la banda sonora de My Dog Skip (2000). Su música suena también la película de Woody Allen Hannah y sus hermanas. James grabó numerosos temas populares y apareción en muchas películas de Hollywood.
En 1983, a James, fumador empedernido durante muchos años, se le diagnosticó un cáncer linfático, aunque continuó trabajando, tocando por última vez el 26 de junio de 1983 en Los Ángeles, solo nueve días antes de su muerte en Las Vegas.