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This Day in Georgia History

March 15, 1916

Harry James Born

To view an image of Harry James, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Trumpet player and bandleader Harry James was born in Albany, Georgia. His mother was a trapeze artist and his father the band leader for the traveling Mighty Haag Circus. In 1923, the James family moved to Beaumont, where young Harry showed an early affinity for music. He played drums by age seven, and began taking trumpet lessons when he was ten years old. By age 12, he was playing trumpet in the Christi Brothers Circus band. James was soon playing and touring with various bands, most notably with Benny Goodman from 1937-38. James left Goodman to form his own band, which debuted in February 1939. His band quickly earned a large following, producing several best sellers throughout the 1940s. In 1943, the popular musician married actress and wartime pin-up queen Betty Grabel - the first of four marriages for him. James continued to tour regularly in the 1950s, then retired for a brief time before returning for special engagements in places like Las Vegas and New York. In addition to his trumpet playing and band leading, James has done soundtracks for numerous movies, and is considered a pioneer in the jazz genre. Harry James died on July 5, 1983, at age 67.