Harry Haag James 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 period in 1947. He was also an actor in a number of pictures that usually featured his bands in some way. Harry James was born in Albany, Georgia, the son of Myrtle Maybelle, an acrobat and horseback rider, and Everett Robert James, a bandleader in a traveling circus, the Mighty Haag Circus. By the age of 10 he was taking lessons from his father. Each day, James was given one page to learn from the Arbans book and was not allowed to any other pastime until he had learned that particular page. In 1931, his family settled in Beaumont, Texas and it was here, at 15 years of age, that James began playing in local dance bands. James played regularly with Herman Waldmans band, and at one performance was noticed by nationally popular Ben Pollack, in 1935 he joined Pollacks band, but at the start of 1937 left to join Benny Goodmans 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 an associated with the cornet and even the flugelhorn. With financial backing from Goodman, in January 1939 James debuted his own big band in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and this big band became known as Harry James and His Music Makers. His hit You Made Me Love You was in the Top 10 during the week of December 7,1941 and he and his band were featured in three films, Private Buckaroo, Two Girls and a Sailor and Springtime in the Rockies. He toured with the band into the 1980s, and to day the Harry James Orchestra still exists. 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 leaving to sing for Tommy Dorsey He wanted to change Sinatras name to Frankie Satin but Sinatra refused. His later band included drummer Buddy Rich and his featured vocalist was Helen Forrest. Johnny MacAfee was featured on the sax and vocals and Corky Corcoran was a youthful sax prodigy and his orchestra succeeded Glenn Millers 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 replacement program for Danny Kayes program on CBS. He also led the orchestra for Call for Music, which was broadcast on CBS February 13,1948 - April 16,1948 and he played trumpet in the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn, dubbing Kirk Douglas
James c. 1942
Texas Historical Commission's marker at the childhood homesite of Harry James in Beaumont, Texas.
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)