For more than 40 years Harry James was one of the top band leaders in the country, discovering talent such as Frank Sinatra and marrying everybody's sweetheart, Betty Grable.
This innovative trumpet player had an unusual start to life, born next to the Albany City Jail in a run-down hotel. His parents were circus performers with little money. Life (and the circus) quickly had James on the road, though not performing until he was 3. By seven he was a good drummer, by ten a trumpet player (the instrument he is most frequently remembered playing). He learned his trade thanks to the likes of Ben Pollack and Benny Goodman, but moving off to form his own band in 1939, beginning his recording career the following year.
Through the years he proved that he was never tied to a "norm." When his jazz following was growing during World War II James recorded classical music and ballads. When he disbanded his band shortly after the end of the war, he reformed it less than a year later -- without the string section. From 1946 until 1983 James continued to play throughout the country with his big band, one of the few to last that long.