The Big Band Era: Harry James
inAugust 17, 2012 - 4:31am
Being married to a saxophone player my house is always filled with music. Both of us love the music from the 1940’s, the swing music. Now that you can get video along with the music on youtube we spend a lot of time watching Bennie Goodman, Duke Ellington, Glen Miller, Jimmy Dorsey and our very favorite Harry James.
He was born March 15, 1916 in a run down hotel in Albany Georgia, the son of circus performers. His mother was a trapeze artist and his father a bandleader. At age 10 James was already playing the trumpet performing for the Christy Brothers circus band. When his family settled in a permanent home in Texas he began playing with local bands. In 1935 he joined the Ben Pollack orchestra and in 1936 he joined the Benny Goodman band. 1938 saw the birth of Harry James and His Music Makers. Connie Haines was the first female vocalist and a young Frank Sinatra was the first male.
His first bit hit was *Music Makers*, followed by* Lament To Love, You Made Me Love You, It’s Been A Long Long Time, Sleepy Lagoon* and *Ciribiribin*.
The next step in his career was appearing in musical movies. While working in Hollywood he met Betty Grable, the number one pin-up girl of the WWII era. Currently married to Louise Tobin he quickly filed for divorce and married Grable on July 5, 1943. They were married for 22 years, divorcing in 1965. Two daughters were born to the couple, Victoria and Jessica. Rumors of alcoholism and infidelity surrounded this union but details remain unknown. Many lovely photographs of this couple with their children were published and they appear to be a happy family. Sadly Grable only lived a few more years, dying of lung cancer in 1973.
James married a 3rd time to showgirl Joan Boyd in 1968. This short-lived marriage ended in 1970 and he never married again.
In 1983 he was diagnosed with cancer and played his last performance in LA 9 days before his death.
Interesting note: he died exactly 40 years after his marriage to Grable.
If you have some time and would like to travel down memory lane with a tune from Harry James, check out this video on youtube, click here.
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Written by Christine Moore
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