The Harry James Orchestra2018-10-05T18:30:29+00:00
Harry James Full Bio

Serving Up The Swingin’ Music

Harry Haag James was born in 1916 in Albany, Georgia, in the United States.  He learned the trumpet from his father, a circus bandleader.  James decided to pursue a professional career in music after winning a state high-school trumpet competition.
Harry began to perform with several dance bands, including that of Ben Pollack’s popular group.  The flawless, technically outstanding trumpeter played for several years with the Benny Goodman Band before forming his own band in 1939 with a gifted but little known vocalist, Frank Sinatra.
During the golden era of the big bands, Harry recorded a number of hits, including “I’ve Heard That Song Before,” from the motion picture Youth on Parade (1942), “You Made Me Love You” (1941), the number-one instrumental hit “Sleepy Lagoon” (1942), “I Had the Craziest Dream” (1943), “You’ll Never Know” and his theme song, “Ciribiribin.”    His band helped launch the careers of many pop music stars of the World War II era, including Frank Sinatra and Helen Forrest.
Some also know Harry as the husband of American film star Betty Grable.  Already a celebrity, James’ marriage to Grable in 1943 cemented his status as one of the most famous American personalities of his generation.

FRED RADKEFRED RADKE is a masterful trumpeter, big-band conductor, musical clinician and educator, recording artist, composer and arranger, and producer. Along with vocalist Gina Funes, Fred has captivated hordes of veteran big-band music fans as well as novice listeners throughout the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and across North America and the Far East. In 2007 he won his third Telly Award, for Visions of Valor, recognizing Medal of Honor recipients. He also won Tellys in 2004 as music director, for the Museum of Flights’ Wings of Heroes, and in 2005 for Apollo 13.  More recently, in 2009 and 2010, Fred packed the halls of the Montreal Jazz Festival, delighting fans with his Harry James Orchestra.
EARLY CAREER:  Born in Oakland, California, Fred started playing trumpet at age seven and soon joined musical organization, the Weldonians. He turned professional at the age of fifteen and performed with the Sal Carson and Dick Stewart big bands . Over the next three years, Fred led the band of a steamship line during ocean crossings of the Pacific and gained additional experience by working with Marlene Dietrich (with Burt Bacharach conducting), and Johnny Mathis. He furthered his education by attending the College of San Mateo and was featured as guest trumpet soloist and musical director of “The Lancers”.

WITH HARRY JAMES: Perhaps the most important musical influence in Fred’s early career was that of legendary jazz trumpet player Harry James.  In what can only be described as a dream come true for Fred, he joined the Harry James Orchestra as lead trumpet player and toured with his mentor. Fred cherished his time with Harry and considered it a great compliment when other musicians, including Harry himself, would remark as to the similarity of Fred’s sound and musical style to that of his mentor.In early 1989, Fred was asked by the Harry James Estate and Columbia Artists to lead the Harry James Orchestra for the 50th Anniversary of Harry James, where they performed 71 concerts throughout the United States. In 1994-95, Fred led a Tribute to Harry James in a battle of the Big Bands on an International Tour.  In 1998, Fred was once again the leader of the Harry James Orchestra for a coast-to-coast tour where they performed 75 concerts for Jomar and Columbia Artists

“Now directed by its former lead trumpet, the enormously talented and irrepressible Fred Radke, the James band is still packing them into concert halls around the globe nearly nine months a year, sustaining the music that made James and others of the era household names and heroes to every young American, the rock stars of a generation that sorely needed the lift beset as it was by depression and war.”

Dan K. Thomasson, Scripps Howard News Service

Like James before him, Radke lights up whatever setting with good humor and versatility, singing now and then. Among his and the band’s assets has been his wife, Gina Funes, a noted jazz singer, who still travels much of the time, earning laudatory reviews from every performance.”

Bob Hope Cultural Center

“Under the direction of Fred Radke, who played first trumpet with Harry James for many years, you will hear “You Made Me Love You,” “I Don’t Want to Walk without You” and “Two O’Clock Jump.” Close your eyes, and you will believe that Harry and his band are here for you….”

Lutcher Theater

“The band has found a remarkable leader in conductor and trumpeter Fred Radke. Radke has commanding stage presence. His royal figure demanded flawless performances from his fellow musicians, and they delivered with style and grace.
Under Radke’s precise control, the band played all those beloved numbers that have made the Harry James Orchestra a legend — from soft, dreamy ballads like ‘Sleepy Lagoon’ to big, brassy pieces like ‘Two O’Clock Jump.’ “

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