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Category Archives: entertainers

Harry James

Trumpeter Harry Haag James was born on March 15, 1916 to Everett Robert James and Maybelle Myrtle James in Albany, Georgia. His father played trumpet and was working as a conductor for traveling circus bands. His mother also had a circus background, but as a performer. She had been an acrobat and horseback rider.

Everett had once been associated with the Mighty Haag Circus, owned by Ernest Haag. The company dated back to the 1890s and started out as a circus that moved from place to place first by wagons, then by rails and finally on to trucks. Another group that Everett had been associated with was the Christy Brothers Circus, founded by George Washington Christy. This group dated back to around 1919 and made appearances all around the country, but wintered in Texas, as Christy had acquired a home in Houston. One anecdote about Christy was that on one occasion, the train that the circus was traveling on experienced a train wreck. Undaunted, Christy broke out his tents and other hardware. He and his personnel set up along side the track and gave a show while the rail lines were repaired.

Harry was raised around music. He learned to play the drums at an early age and added the trumpet to his list of instruments a bit later. He took to the trumpet and by his early teens was playing with a circus band. As a result of his early experience, he had endurance and developed the beautiful tone that he became known for.

Everett and Maybelle eventually relocated to Texas around the early 1930s, settling in Beaumont where Everett continued to be associated with regional circuses. The Depression took a heavy toll on the circus business and many of them shut down. The James family elected to stay in Beaumont and Everett began teaching at a local parochial school. Already a prodigy, Harry had been invited to play in the high school band when he was still in junior high.

Harry began playing professionally fresh out of high school, making his first recordings as early as 1936. The following year, when he was eighteen, he was invited to join the Benny Goodman swing band, and he accepted. James quickly rose to prominence in the band, becoming a featured soloist. Harry was with the Goodman band for about two years before launching out on his own. The field was crowded with good bands competing in the same genre, but James’ group slowly gained a following as he was able to add key players and vocalists.

Harry James, Everett and Maybelle – Image credit: Stephen F. Austin University

He was first married to vocalist Louise Tobin, later to actress Betty Grable and finally to Joan Boyd. His career continued to be strong, despite the eventual decline in popularity of swing band music, and Harry was able to adapt to later styles. Harry also began to make appearances in film and on television as he continued to perform in music venues. He has a long list of film and television appearances and an even longer list of soundtrack credits. He also continued to record his music.

Harry passed away in 1983 from lung cancer. He is buried in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he resided for many years. His honors include being inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. The Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Music Hall of Fame in Port Arthur also lists James as a music legend. In addition, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Harry James – IMDB

Harry James – Discogs.com

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Posted by on October 14, 2021 in biography, entertainers

 

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Joe Tex

The singer by this name was born on August 8, 1935 (some sources give the year to be 1933) as Joseph Arrington, Jr. in Rogers, Bell County, Texas and went to school in McNair, just outside Baytown. His parents were Joseph Arrington and Cherrie Warren Arrington. He was a high school athlete and played in the band. As a youth, he won a talent contest and was invited to perform in New York City’s Apollo Theater. Early on, he adopted the stage name of Joe Tex.

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Posted by on September 16, 2021 in black history, entertainers, people named Tex

 

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Movie Cowboys’ Texas Ties: Some are True, Some are False

Film studios were known for occasionally exaggerating the resumes of their stars back in the early days. One example was the film resume of singing cowboy actor Ken Maynard. His biography said he was born in Mission, Texas when in reality he was born in Vevay, Indiana. It could have either been an inadvertent miscommunication or an intentional statement to give him more of a “Texas” connection, but Maynard (1895-1973) had a long film career, appearing as a western actor in about 90 productions. One biographical paragraph says that Maynard learned to ride horses and rope in Texas when he was a boy, but it is not clear whether the family lived within the state, or if they did, for how long. Maynard is believed to have worked with circus or wild west shows before becoming and served in the Army in World War I. The rest of his resume may well have been factual.

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Posted by on August 19, 2021 in entertainers

 

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Anne Gwynne

The actress known as Anne Gwynne was born Marguerite Gwynne Trice in Waco, McLennan County, Texas on December 18, 1918. Her parents were Jefferson Benjamin Trice and Pearle Guinn Trice. Her father was in a number of businesses, but seems to have worked as a traveling salesman from time to time. They lived at 1308 N. 15th Street in Waco, just outside of the downtown business district.

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Posted by on August 5, 2021 in biography, entertainers

 

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Ramiro Gonzalez Gonzalez

Ramiro Gonzalez Gonzalez was an actor in films for many years. He usually played comedic and dramatic roles of a certain type and would be considered a character actor. His name was Gonzalez Gonzalez because both his parents had the same surname. He also was a comedian and made personal appearances as such.

Gonzalez Gonzalez was born in Aguilares in far South Texas in 1925 to a family of entertainers, including his Spanish mother, a dancer, and his Mexican American father, a trumpet player. He left school at age 7 to perform with his family in a traveling group and was involved in some aspect of entertainment for almost his entire life. He is said to have gotten his break in films after appearing in 1953 on a segment of Groucho Marx’s television quiz show “You Bet Your Life.” Gonzalez Gonzalez’s witty and quick responses caught the eye of actor John Wayne, who then signed him to a seven year contract leading to Gonzalez Gonzalez’s appearance in many movies including “The High and the Mighty,” “Rio Bravo,” “McLintock!,” “Hellfighters” and “Chisum.”

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