– July 5
) was an American musician
and band leader
, and a well-known trumpet
virtuoso. James was one of the most outstanding instrumentalists
of the swing
era, employing a bravura playing style that made his trumpet work instantly identifiable. He was also 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 Harry Haag James
, 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 and, at the start of 1937, left Pollack to join Benny Goodman
, where he stayed through 1938. His hit
"You Made Me Love You
" was in the Top 10
during the week of December 7, 1941.
In February 1939 James debuted his own big band in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Buddy Rich.
He played trumpet in the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn, dubbing Kirk Douglas. James' 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.
James was second only to Glenn Miller as the most successful recording artist of 1942.
James was married
three times. In May 1935, he wed singer Louise Tobin, with whom he had two children and they remained married until 1943.) The same year he married the actress
, Betty Grable
, and this second marriage lasted until 1965. He married Las Vegas
showgirl, Joan Boyd in 1968; they were divorced in March of 1970. Contrary to what some websites have listed, James did not marry a fourth time. James had five children (two by Tobin, two by Grable, one by Boyd) and (as of his death) 16 grandchildren.
Thoroughbred horse racing
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 1959 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 26 June
in Los Angeles
, just nine days before his death in Las Vegas
. Frank Sinatra
gave the eulogy
at the Bunkers Eden Vale Memorial Park in Las Vegas
Selected hit songs