Vocalist Jimmy Valentine sang with local bands in his native Texas before being discovered by drummer Ray McKinley while the latter was on tour with Jimmy Dorsey in the late 1930s. Valentine was extremely popular with crowds in his home state, upstaging even Dorsey vocalist Bob Eberly.
After McKinley and trombonist Will Bradley formed an orchestra in 1939, McKinley offered Valentine a job in January 1940. Though the young tenor proved a capable balladeer for the band, he was extremely shy, often running off the stage when his number was over. Valentine had little opportunity to gain experience, however, as Bradley and McKinley soon hit upon their formula for success in playing boogie woogie rhythms, leaving the singer little to do. He remained with the band until January 1941.
Valentine had ended up in the service by July 1941, when he was stationed at Camp Wallace, near Houston. While there he was the featured singer on a local radio show for service men. He was still known to be in the service in early 1942. Beyond that, he disappears from history.
Valentine’s name was perhaps based on the fictional safe cracker featured in the 1928 film Alias Jimmy Valentine, which inspired a radio drama in the late 1930s. A 1942 crime comedy film, The Affairs of Jimmy Valentine, also references the character. Other performers adopted the name as well. During the same time period, it was used by a regional bandleader in the southern states and a one-legged dancer who appeared in vaudeville.