Jimmy James

Jimmy James led a popular orchestra in the Midwest during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Based in Cincinnati, James leaned mostly towards the sweet side and had a long-running radio program on WLW. He also had a good ear for vocalists. Doris Day sang with the band during early 1940, and Betty Bonney was vocalist during early 1941. Both went on to become star chirps for Les Brown. Shirley Gaye, who also briefly sang for Brown, joined as vocalist in early 1942, staying until mid-year. Betty Benson sang in mid-1943.

James entered the army in late 1943, where he served as musical director for the Jeep Shows featuring Mickey Rooney and Bobby Brown. He returned to the States in late 1945 and organized a new band in early 1946 with an aim to compete on the national level. The orchestra recorded on the Enterprise label, with Gaye returning as vocalist. By that time, however, James’ style had become out-of-date, and the new orchestra failed to catch on. He eventually gave up in 1948 and returned to WLW as the station’s music conductor.


  1. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 25 May 1940: 12.
  2. “Amusements: Indiana Roof.” Cambridge City National Road Traveler [Cambridge City, IN] 6 Mar. 1941: 2.
  3. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 31 May 1941: 10.
  4. Advertisement. The Athens Messenger [Athens, OH] 5 May 1942: 5.
  5. “The Dance Band Maestro.” The Portsmouth Times [Portsmouth, OH] 10 May 1942: 7.
  6. “—a good steer!” Down Beat 15 Jun. 1942: 13.
  7. “Jimmy James Back.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1945: 1.
  8. “Vocalist.” The Helena Independent-Record [Helena, MT] 25 Aug. 1946: 5.
  9. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 19 Oct. 1946: 29.
  10. “Jimmy James Returns To Radio Studio Post.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1948: 15.