James, Harry (b. Hagg)(1916–83) jazz trumpeter; born in Albany, Ga. As a boy he worked in a circus act—his father was in the band, his mother was a trapeze artist—and as a teenager he took up the trumpet and led the circus band. He played with Ben Pollack for a year before joining Benny Goodman's band in 1937, where he soon became known for his virtuoso playing; he ranks as one of the first of the great modern trumpeters due to his stamina, range, richness of tone, and boldness. In 1938 he formed his own band, which performed through the 1970s although it could not maintain the success it enjoyed in the "big band era" of the 1940s and 1950s. He made about 16 feature movies, both with and without his orchestra, usually playing himself, and several with his wife, Betty Grable. He supplied the actual trumpet music played by Kirk Douglas in the movie Young Man With a Horn (1950).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.