Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a trumpet player whose career included some real twists and turns.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
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Harry James was born on March 15, 1916, in Albany, Ga. He got his start in show business as a circus contortionist. His father, the circus bandmaster, taught him to play drums, piano and trumpet. In 1931, the James family moved to Beaumont, Texas, where Harry concentrated full-time on playing trumpet. Five years later, he joined Benny Goodman’s orchestra and then formed his own band in 1939. Harry James became known for his sizzling trumpet solos and for recruiting talented collaborators, including a young Frank Sinatra.
Harry James married actress Betty Grable in 1943 and moved to Las Vegas. Prior to his death in 1983, Harry James continued to perform on his own, and he also appeared in a series of movies with the Benny Goodman band.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll go on the air with a pioneer in Spanish-language radio.