Harry James

Composers

Biography

Born: March 15, 1916; Albany, GA   Died: July 5, 1983; Las Vegas, NV  
Harry 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 made his first recordings as a member of Ben Pollack's band in September 1936. Not long after, he was tapped by Benny Read more Goodman. He rapidly gained notice in the Goodman band and by December 1937, he had begun to make recordings under his own name for Brunswick Records. In early 1939, he launched his own orchestra, premiering it in Philadelphia in February. That spring, he heard the then-unknown Frank Sinatra on a radio broadcast and hired him. The band struggled, however, and when the more successful bandleader Tommy Dorsey made Sinatra an offer at the end of 1939, James did not stand in his way. After two years of difficulties in maintaining his band, James changed musical direction in early 1941. He added strings and turned to a sweeter, more melodic style. The results were not long in coming. In April 1941, he first reached the Top Ten with the self-written instrumental "Music Makers." A second Top Ten hit, "Lament to Love," featuring Dick Haymes on vocals, followed in August; late in the year, James reached the Top Five with an instrumental treatment of the 1913 song "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)." This was the record that established him as a star. James was second only to Glenn Miller as the most successful recording artist of 1942. During the year, seven of his recordings peaked in the Top Ten. No one questioned James' talent as a jazz trumpeter, though after his commercial ascendance in 1941 many jazz critics dismissed him. Nevertheless, his swing hits remain among the most popular music of the era. Read less

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