Harry James - It's Been A Long, Long Time - Columbia 36838 - Avengers Endgame 78

Sold Date: January 26, 2024
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This copy is V, with a lam crack about 2 in; an edge bite that does not affect play but you can see the photo. Also a lam crack under the label (see photo).


Harry Haag James (March 15, 1916 – July 5, 1983) was an American musician who is best known as a trumpet-playing band leader who led a from 1939 to 1946. He broke up his band for a short period in 1947, but shortly after he reorganized and was active again with his band from then until his death in 1983. He was especially known among musicians for his technical proficiency as well as his , and was influential on new trumpet players from the late 1930s into the 1940s. He was also an actor in a number of films that usually featured his band.

Early life Texas Historical Commission's marker at the childhood homesite of Harry James in Beaumont, Texas. From left: Stan "Cuddles" Johnson, , Bob Smith, Harry James, Al Johnson, Stew Barnett. (The Cave Supper Club, May 1970) From left: Harry James, , . (, 1958)

Harry James was born in , United States, the son of Everett Robert James, a bandleader in a traveling circus, the , and Myrtle Maybelle (Stewart), an acrobat and horseback rider. He started performing with the circus at an early age, first as a at the age of four, then playing the in the band from about the age of six. It was at this age that James was almost trampled by the circus trick horses after he wandered onto the circus track as they were performing their stunts, but he was protected by his mother's pet horse, who stood over him until the other horses rushed by.

James started taking trumpet lessons from his father at age eight, and by age twelve he was leading the second band in the Christy Brothers Circus, for which his family was then working. James's father placed him on a strict daily practice schedule. At each session he was given several pages to learn from the and was not allowed to pursue any other pastime until he had learned them. While still a student at Dick Dowling Junior High School, he participated as a regular member of 's Royal Purple Band, and in May 1931 he took first place as trumpet soloist at the Texas Band Teacher's Association's Annual Eastern Division contest held in .


In 1924, his family settled in , Texas. It was here in the early 1930s that James began playing in local dance bands when he was 15 years of age. James played regularly with Herman Waldman's band, and at one performance was noticed by nationally popular . In 1935 he joined Pollack's band, but left at the start of 1937 to join 's orchestra, where he stayed through 1938. He was nicknamed "The Hawk" early in his career for his ability to . A common joke was that if a fly landed on his written music, Harry James would play it. His low range had a warmth associated with the and even the , but this sound was underrecorded in favor of James' brilliant high register.

With financial backing from Goodman, James debuted his own in , Pennsylvania, in January 1939, but it didn't click until adding a string section in 1941. Subsequently, known as Harry James and His Music Makers, it produced the "", which peaked at no. 5 on National Best Selling Retail Records chart for the week ending November 18, 1941. During its 18-week chart run, the single spent ten non-consecutive weeks in the Top Ten, from early November 1941 until late January 1942.[] He and his band appeared in three films: and (both 1942), and (1944). James toured with the band into the 1980s, and as of July 2018 the Harry James Orchestra, led by Fred Radke, was still very much in business.


James' band was the first high-profile orchestra to feature vocalist , who signed a one-year, $75 a week contract with it in 1939 ($1,589 a week in 2022). James wanted to change Sinatra's name to 'Frankie Satin', but the singer refused. Sinatra only worked seven months before leaving to join 's outfit. The James band's featured female vocalist was , and his later band included drummer and bassist . Johnny MacAfee was featured on the sax and vocals, and was a youthful sax prodigy.


James' orchestra succeeded 's on a program sponsored by in 1942, when Miller disbanded his orchestra to enter the Army. In 1945, James and his orchestra had a summer replacement program for 's program on . He also led the orchestra for , which was broadcast on CBS February 13, 1948 – April 16, 1948, and on April 20, 1948 – June 29, 1948.


James recorded many popular and appeared in many Hollywood movies. He played trumpet in the 1950 film , dubbing . The album from the movie charted at #1, with James backing big band singer and actress . James's recording of "" appears in the motion picture (2000). His music is also featured in the film . James's recording of "" is featured in and in Marvel's .

Musical style and reception Influences

With James's childhood spent as a musician in a traveling circus, he picked up a flamboyant style that utilized such techniques as heavy vibrato, half valve and lip glissandi, valve and lip trills, and valve tremolos. These techniques were popular at the time in what was known as , epitomized by James's idol , but somewhat fell out of favor by the 1950s with the advent of . James's rigorous regime of practice as a child resulted in an exceptional technical proficiency in the more classical techniques of range, fingering and tonguing. Growing up in the South, James was also exposed to , which had an additional influence on his style. As James explained, "I was brought up in Texas with the blues – when I was eleven or twelve years old down in what they call 'barbecue row' I used to sit in with the guys that had the broken bottlenecks on their guitars, playing the blues; that's all we knew." After hearing James solo on several numbers at a Benny Goodman one-nighter, Armstrong enthused to his friend and Goodman , "That white boy – he plays like a jig!"

Move towards pop

After James left Benny Goodman's band in 1939 to form his own band, he soon found that leading a commercially viable musical group required a broader set of skills than those needed to be a gifted musician playing in someone else's band. The James band ran into financial trouble, and it became increasingly difficult for James to pay salaries and keep the band together. In 1940, James lost his contract with (he returned in 1941), and Frank Sinatra left the band that January. It was not long after this that James made a pivotal decision: he would adopt a "sweeter" style that added strings to the band, and the band would deliver tunes that were in more of a "pop" vein and less true to its jazz roots. From a commercial standpoint, the decision paid off as James soon enjoyed a string of chart topping hits that provided commercial success for him and his band. Indeed, a U.S. Treasury report released in 1945 listed Harry James and as the highest-paid couple in the nation.

While James remained commercially successful and personally committed to his music, some critics sought to find fault. In 1999 biography, , the respected critic and Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies, called the 1941 release of the later Grammy Hall of Fame inducted "You Made Me Love You" "the record that the jazz critics never forgave Harry James for recording." With James continuing to employ his flamboyant style on pop hits through the 1940s, his playing was often labeled as "schmaltzy" and dismissed by the critics, although radio discs from this period reveal James's continued commitment to jazz. James's jazz releases during this period, while not as numerous, include a variety of modern arrangements from , Frank Devenport, and that often inspired his musicians, and as surpassed by the late 1940s, James was surprisingly open to its influence.

Return to Big Band jazz Publicity photo of James, c. 1975

After coasting through the mid-1950s, James made a complete reevaluation of where he was heading in his musical career. provided the impetus by making a significant comeback with his newly formed "16 Men Swinging" band, and James wanted a band with a decided Basie flavor. James signed with in 1955, and two years later, after releasing new studio versions of many of his previously released songs from Columbia Records, James recorded ten new tracks for an album entitled . This album was the first in a series released on Capitol, and continuing later on , representative of the Basie style that James adopted during this period, with some of the arrangements provided by former Basie saxophonist and arranger , whom James hired for his own band.

While James never completely regained favor with jazz critics during his lifetime in spite of his return to more jazz-oriented releases in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, contemporary opinion of his work has shifted. Recent reissues such as Capitol's 2012 7-disc set The Capitol Vaults Jazz Series: Gene Krupa and Harry James have prompted new, more favorable analyses. In 2014, of JazzWax commented, "[James's] band of the mid-1940s was more modern than most of the majors, and in 1949 he led one of the finest bands of the year." And on James's releases from 1958 to 1961, Myers noted, "The James band during this period has been eclipsed by bands led by , and . While each served up its own brand of magnificence, James produced more consistently brilliant tracks than the others... virtually everything James recorded during this period was an uncompromising, swinging gem."

James felt strongly about the music he both played and recorded. In 1972 while in London, he did an interview with the English jazz critic , who asked if the biggest audience was for the commercial numbers he had recorded. James visibly bristled, replying "That would depend on for whom you are playing. If you're playing for a jazz audience, I'm pretty sure that some of the jazz things we do would be a lot more popular than 'Sleepy Lagoon,' and if we're playing at a country club or playing Vegas, in which we have many, many types of people, then I'm sure that 'Sleepy Lagoon' would be more popular at that particular time. But I really get bugged about these people talking about commercial tunes, because to me, if you're gonna be commercial, you're gonna stand on your head and make funny noises and do idiotic things. I don't think we've ever recorded or played one tune that I didn't particularly love to play. Otherwise, I wouldn't play it."

Personal life

James was married three times, first to singer on May 4, 1935, with whom he had two sons, Harry Jeffrey James (b. 1941) and Timothy Ray James (b. 1942). They divorced in 1943. Later that year he married actress . They had two daughters, Victoria Elizabeth (b. 1944) and Jessica (b. 1947), before divorcing in 1965. In December 1967 James wed Joan Boyd. The couple had a son, Michael (b. 1968), before divorcing in 1970.

James owned several racehorses that won races such as the (1951) and the (1954). He was also a founding investor in the . His knowledge of horse racing was demonstrated during a 1958 appearance on entitled "".

James was a heavy smoker, drinker, and gambler. In 1983 he was diagnosed with , but continued to work. He played his last professional job, with the Harry James Orchestra, on June 26, 1983, in Los Angeles, dying just nine days later in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 5, 1983, at age 67. Frank Sinatra gave the eulogy at his funeral, held in Las Vegas.