Skip to main content

Cross-Posted at THE DAILY MUSIC BREAK, the site that features good music regardless of era or genre. If you enjoy The Daily Music Break, please visit our funding pitch at Indiegogo.


Harry James was one of the most important performers of the World War II era--and not just because he played a major role in the career of Frank Sinatra. NNDB has his profile:

Both a skilled trumpet-player and a popular bandleader, Harry James began playing in dance bands when he was only 15. In 1936 he was invited to join Benny Goodman's orchestra, and became so popular with audiences that when he decided to start his own band in 1938 Goodman helped to finance the venture.

Shortly after The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra began performing publicly in 1939, then-unknown singer Frank Sinatra was brought on board. The singer remained active with the band for only a year, however: finances during this period were tight, and when a more lucrative offer was given to Sinatra by Tommy Dorsey, James let him out of his contract so he could pursue it. Despite this defection, the orchestra achieved considerable popularity throughout the early 40s, in part aided by appearances in feature films such as Best Foot Forward and I'll Get By.

In 1943 James married Betty Grable, the top pin-up model in the country. Not a bad personal development, but his musical fortunes were not moving along such positive lines, and in 1946 he dissolved the orchestra. This retirement proved to be short-lived, however, and he continued performing on and off (particularly in Las Vegas) until nine days before his death in 1983. (Continue Reading...)

There clearly is more to the story than that. Tom Nolan's review in January Magazine of Peter Levinson's biography of James, which was published in 1999, starts filling in some of the blanks:
For many jazz fans, trumpet player Harry James was at best superfluous and at worst a sellout: a musician of formidable technique who abandoned the fiery style that made him a star of the Benny Goodman Orchestra in the late 1930s, only to adopt a much more schmaltzy, flashy, commercial manner that led to a remarkable number of hit records throughout the 40s.

To dance music lovers, James was the leader for three decades of a consistently satisfying big band whose earliest incarnation gave Frank Sinatra his start and whose 1950s version found its most lucrative gigs at the casino hotels in Vegas and at Tahoe.
But most of America knew Harry James simply as the husband of movie star Betty Grable, the blonde pinup who caused World War II G.I.s to croon, "I want a gal, just like the gal, who married Harry James..."

None of these versions of James would necessarily warrant publishing a major biography at century's end; but Peter J. Levinson, a longtime music publicist and first-time author, has produced one in Trumpet Blues. And in putting together all the Harry Jameses -- jazz player, big-band leader, celebrity husband (as well as promiscuous womanizer, unrecovered alcoholic and ruinous gambler) -- he's not only made James a much more interesting figure than might have been imagined, but written one of the most engrossing and compelling jazz biographies in many years. (Continue Reading...)

Above is Don't Be That Way and below is You Made Me Love You.

Originally posted to cweinsch on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 06:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by An Ear for Music.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Renee, hazzcon, slksfca, jbob, Bill W, trumpeter, claude

    Please visit The Daily Music Break for some good music.

    by cweinsch on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 06:32:13 AM PDT

  •  Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cweinsch

    I love Helen Forrest. She was a great warbler. :-)

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 06:55:50 AM PDT

  •  Sweet! Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cweinsch

    Let's go back to E Pluribus Unum

    by hazzcon on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 06:55:51 AM PDT

  •  Harry James was one of those guys (0+ / 0-)

    who looked into the tea leaves, and followed the money, rather than the art.  But unlike some (cough Kenny G cough), he had real chops and could play great jazz (but not bebop) when he wanted to.

    He had his own voice and his own sound, and you can always tell his playing within a few measures.  he inspired a generation of imitators, and a bunch of guys who started imitating his technique grew up to go beyond him stylistically.  Doc Severinsen has said he owes a lot to Harry's bravura style.  (People pick on Doc for his wardrobe, but he's a hell of a player).

    My half-brother has a photo taken in the early 50's of him, age 2, sitting on Betty Grable's lap.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 11:15:57 AM PDT

  •  just yesterday, in a fit of nostalgia (0+ / 0-)

    I listened to one of the many versions of James's signature tune Ciribiribin, which has been rattling around in my head for almost 60 years.  Listened to it on 78rpm back in the earliest 50s and have always loved it. This is one of the many versions offered on utube:

    Here's video of him performing the Flight of the Bumblebee.

    Yes,  this dates me,  but Harry James was my first exposure to virtuoso trumpet playing.  I do like Lee Morgan better.  Fast forward 25 years for another trumpet virtuoso.

    This music is from back in the days when there was still a little bit of space between the sounds.  Nowadays,  every speck of space is filled with sound, relentlessly.

    Lee Morgan does "The Sidewinder":

    Thanks for prodding the memories.  And remember, "de gustibus,  non disputam es".

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 12:21:41 PM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site