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Harry Haag James (March 15, 1916 – July 5, 1983) was an American musician and bandleader. James was an instrumentalist of the swing era, employing a bravura playing style that made his trumpet work identifiable. He was 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 in Albanymarker, Georgiamarker, 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 Beaumontmarker, Texasmarker, where James began playing with local dance band.

He joined the nationally popular Ben Pollack in 1935 but at the start of 1937, left Pollack to join Benny Goodman's orchestra, where he stayed through 1938.

In February 1939 James debuted his own big band in Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker. His hit "You Made Me Love You" was in the Top 10 during the week of December 7, 1941. 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 drummer Buddy Rich.

He played trumpet in the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn, dubbing Kirk Douglas. James's 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 Hollywoodmarker movies.

He was second only to Glenn Miller as the most successful recording artist of 1942.

James was married thrice. In May 1935, he married singer Louise Tobin, with two offspring. That marriage was dissolved in 1943. In the same year, he married the actress, Betty Grable: that marriage was dissolved in 1965, she is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood California. His third marriage was to Las Vegasmarker showgirl Joan Boyd in 1968; that marriage was dissolved in March 1970. Contrary to some assertions, he did not marry a fourth time. He had five children (two by Tobin, two by Grable, one by Boyd) and (as of his death) 16 grandchildren.

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 Coursemarker. His knowledge of horse racing was demonstrated during a 1958 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 June 26, 1983, in Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker, just nine days before his death in Las Vegas, Nevadamarker. Frank Sinatra gave the eulogy at the Bunkers Eden Vale Memorial Park in Las Vegas.


  • If I'm Lucky (1946)
  • I'll Get By (1950)
  • Outlaw Queen (1957)
  • Private Buckaroo (1942)
  • Riot in Rhythm (1957)

1955 De Soto commercial for Chrysler corp.



  1. "" Harry James Orchestra - Official Site
  2. [ "Harry James"
  3. [ "The Lucy Desi Comedy Hour Lucy Wins A Racehorse"

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