Image of Harry James on trumpet.

Harry James

(trumpet) 1916 - 1983

Harry James was born in Albany, Georgia 15th March 1916. The parents were professional entertainers in a travelling circus where the mother was a trapeze artiste and the father was the bandmaster. This was to be the environment for young Harry for the next 14 years or so where he learned the trumpet and drums, although his father never wanted him to be an entertainer but rather a lawyer or doctor. However Harry learned his art, became a good sight reader, and developed an impressive embouchure.

The great Wall Street Crash affected all levels of the United States and circus performers were no exception and the James family had to permanently re-settle in Beaumont, Texas. From this location Harry began to get dance band jobs all over Texas and by 1934 had established quite a reputation beyond the state lines. In 1935 he got the call to join Ben Pollack at the time still a force in the dance band world. While with Pollack the young trumpeter was heard further afield and made his first records. Such was his growing fame that he got an offer from Tommy Dorsey and also from Horace Heidt but rejected both. Then in late 1936 the call came to join the King of Swing - Benny Goodman - this time Harry accepted.

The classic Goodman trumpet section of Harry James, Ziggy Elman and Chris Griffin was now established and lasted till after the historic Carnegie Hall Concert in 1938 after which the band began to lose a couple of stars. First Gene Krupa got the leading bug and left shortly after the Carnegie date then some nine months later Harry James got Benny's blessing to try his luck. The first two years were hard and the band was just not breaking through to the big money. A young Frank Sinatra, who Harry had spotted and hired, left to join Tommy Dorsey in early 1940 and was replaced by Dick Haymes. Harry was still making good records, usually hot, which didn't really sell that well. Then in early 1941 he had an epiphany moment and decided to add a small string section. Jazz fans were outraged and many thought he had lost his way but then a recording of "You Made Me Love You" full of strings and wide trumpet vibrato went straight to the top of the charts and the rest is history. The change in emphasis from hot to sentimental was in keeping with the times as war clouds were gathering and young men were answering the draft and relationships disrupted. Helen Forrest joined in October and completed the perfected package for the Harry James orchestra to hit the big time just as war was declared.

Thanks to morale boosting radio programmes and big promotion from Columbia records the Harry James Orchestra overtook Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, who had disbanded to join the Army Airforce in September 1942. He was also a natural for Hollywood and starred in several 20th Century Fox musicals where his relationship with the forces pinup girl Betty Grable became international headlines. When they married in 1943 they were the equivalent of the Beckams - he was the new big band top man and she was the biggest female earner in Hollywood and they became the royalty of American Show Business.

Image of Back Row; Ed Mihelich, Buddy Combine, Nick Buono, Pinky Savitt (half hidden). Middle Roe; Harry James, Juan Tizol, Dave Robbins, Ziggy Elmer (soloing). Front Row; Bob Poland, Corky Corcoran, Willie Smith, Ed Rosa, Sam Sachelle. Cicrca late 1947 early '48.

After the war the entertainment scene had changed. The solo singers like Sinatra, Como, Haymes with the equivalent female stars were calling the shots with the bands almost reduced to accompanying status. The Harry James band did better than most with regular radio shows and recordings featuring ballads and some hot titles but at the end of 1946 he took time off and disbanded. Horse racing had become a passion for both he and Betty Grable and so he had time to indulge this for a few months before reforming late in 1947. This was a return to his real love - good swing jazz and he engaged Neal Hefti both to join the trumpet section and to write some new things for the band. These along with the Ray Conniff library went some way to regain the respect of the jazz community and a James renaissance was underway. Some of the most swinging performances are heard on Hep CD 24.

With some breaks and the arrival and departure of such as Don Lamond, Buddy Rich and Jackie Mills on drums and the dependable Corky Corcoran on tenor the band eventually set up headquarters in Las Vegas in the 50s. Betty Grable was reinventing herself as a showgirl in the big casinos and for a while all went well with a series of great swinging albums on Capitol Records featuring Basie style arrangements from Ernie Wilkins. Then came divorce and an increase in the James drinking accompanied by gathering financial problems.

Harry James kept up the standard for most of the sixties and early 70s and undertook some European tours which did not make that much. Betty Grable died in 1975 and although they had been divorced it was a blow. The bandleader struggled on against growing ill health and indifferent business till he died on July, 5th, 1983.

Image of Helen Forrest and Harry James. < Top
Image of Hep CD24 - Harry James - Big John Special '49



"Big John Special"

Featuring Willie Smith and Corky Corcoran. Arrangements by Jimmy Mundy and Neal Hefti. 1949.

Titles - Big John Special / Cherry / Dont'cha Go Way Mad / Star Dust / Cheek to Cheek / Bluebeard Blues / Except February which has 28 / Slap Happy / Forgotten / Rank Frank / Hurry, Hurry, Hurry / On Moonlight Bay / Body and Soul / Lamond and Mon / Sleepy Time Gal / Block Party / Down By The Station / Six, two and Even / Bells / Things Aint What They used to Be / Circus days / So Tired / Two O Clock Jump / Redigal Jump / Ultra.

Price includes postage & packaging per order: £8.99

Harry James - "Big John Special"

Image of Hep CD62 - Harry James - Feet Draggin' Blues



"Feet Draggin' Blues"

1944-47 collection of post-war performances featuring arrangements by Ray Conniff with vocals by Kitty Kallen, Ginnie Powell and Willie Smith.

Titles - I'm Beginning To See The Light / I'm Confessin' / I Wish I Knew / Friar Rock / Who's Sorry Now / The Beaumont Ride / Do You Love Me / Easy / Keb-Lah / Moten Swing / Feet Draggin' Blues (Parts 1 & 2) / Stella By Starlight / East Coast Blues / The Last Mile / Blue Turning Grey Over You / Cotton Tail / Pagan Love Song / Vine Street Blues (Parts 1 & 2) / Redigal Jump / September Song.

Price includes postage & packaging per order: £8.99

Harry James - "Cotton Tail"

Image of Hep CD83 - Harry James - Eight Bar Riff



"Eight Bar Riff"

Broadcast performances from 1943-50 featuring Willie Smith, Corky Corcoran and Juan Tizol, vocals Buddy Moreno, Ginnie Powell.

Titles - Cinderella / Too Marvellous for Words / Gravy Train / Coffee Time / Jump Sauce / Talk of the Town / June is Busting Out All over / Friar Rock / 9.20 Special / Blue Skies / I Can't Begin to Tell You / King Porter Stomp / 9.20 Special / Do You Love Me / Eight Bar Riff / The Man I Love / I've Never Forgotten / I Don't Know Why / Keb-Lah / Beaumont Ride / In a Mist / Slap Happy / Carnival.

Price includes postage & packaging per order: £8.99

Harry James - "Coffee Time"

Image of Hep CD88 - Harry James featuring Dick Haymes - New York Worlds Fair - 1940, The Blue Room, Hotel Lincoln 1941



"Harry James Featuring Dick Haymes"

New York Worlds Fair - 1940, The Blue Room, Hotel Lincoln 1941

Titles - Song of the Islands / Nobody's Baby / Moon Won't Talk / Tempo de Luxe / Fools Rush In / Nearness of You / Maybe / Answer Man / It Wouldn't be Love / Blueberry Hill / My Greatest Mistake plus 13.

Price includes postage & packaging per order: £8.99

Harry James - "La Paloma"

Image of Hep CD94 - Harry James and his Music Makers - Flash Harry - Broadcasts 1942-46


HARRY JAMES and his Music Makers

"Flash Harry - Broadcasts 1942-46"

Broadcast performances from various locations 1942 - 1946 featuring Helen Forrest, Helen Ward, Corky Corcoran and Willie Smith.

Titles - Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea / I Heard You Cried Last Night / My Beloved Is Rugged / Charmaine / Shady Lady Bird / All The Things You Are / Pistol Packin' Mama / You Go To My Head / How Sweet You Are / Jump Sauce / My Old Flame / Chelsea Bridge / Flash / Prince Charming / Somebody Loves Me / If I Had You / It's Been So Long / Jiggers The Beat / Moten Swing / Air Mail Special / It Can't Be Wrong / Penthouse Serenade / Three Little Words / Zambu.

Price includes postage & packaging per order: £8.99

Harry James - "Shady Lady Bird"

Image of Hep CD1068 - Harry James & His Orchestra - Record Session '39 - '42


HARRY JAMES & His Orchestra

"Record Session '39 - '42"

The studio performances from 1939-42 that established Harry James as the top American big band of the war years, featuring Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest.

Titles - Sweet Georgia Brown / Two O'Clock Jump / Indiana / Feet Draggin' Blues / Flash / Cross Country Jump / Back Beat Boogie / Music Makers / Duke's Mixture / Jeffries' Blues / Sharp As A Tack / Record Session / Yes, Indeed / Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen / B-19 / The Mole / Blues In The Night / Strictly Instrumental / But Not For Me / Crazy Rhythm / James Session / Let Me Up / My Beloved Is Rugged / Prince Charming / Mister Five By Five.

Price includes postage & packaging per order: £8.99

Harry James - "Strictly Instrumental"

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