Personalities | Harry James | Forties | Jazz & Blues

(Trumpet, 1916–83)

Harry James grew up in a circus and went on to become a media celebrity as a bandleader, a fame that only intensified when he married actress Betty Grable in 1943. James made his initial reputation as a formidable trumpet player with Benny Goodman’s band before forming his own group in 1938, but lost some of his credibility with jazz fans when he began to work in a more populist, romantic ballad style in the 1940s.

His playing was admired by his major influences, Louis Armstrong and Bunk Johnson, and his combination of musical invention with bravura technique remained highly impressive throughout his career. He returned to more directly jazz-oriented band arrangements in the 1950s and continued to lead big bands. An inveterate womanizer and compulsive gambler, he worked in Las Vegas for many years from 1963, where his proceeds went straight back into the casinos.

Styles & Forms | Forties | Jazz & Blues
Personalities | J.J. Johnson | Forties | Jazz & Blues

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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