Harry James’s Sheared Beaver Coat
A custom-tailored sheared beaver topcoat, owned and worn by famed Jazz trumpeter Harry James, circa 1950s. Dark brown beaver fur lined with dark brown satin and bearing six braided leather buttons. Has small chain for hanging at nape and two exterior pockets.
Dad always “dressed” when he went out (anticipating fans, if nothing else). He usually used this Sheered Beaver outer dress coat whenever he was in a cold climate – especially during winter music job tours (sometimes by air or more often on a chartered bus). It allowed him both comfort and warmth while still maintaining his “image” while being out in public. That is all I know about it – I retrieved it from his personal closet (at his home) the day after he died because “it just looked like Dad”. It is too big for me so I have never worn it. I have kept it (covered), as a personal memento, in a cedar lined closet at my home ever since I got it.
When my Dad, Harry James, was playing with Benny Goodman in the 1930’s, he was considered by most of the Big Band musicians of that time (including Benny) to be one of the very finest lead trumpet, solo and jazz players in the world. Like many successful players, his primary ambition was to have his own successful Big Band. In the late 1930s, and with a little financial help from Benny Goodman personally, he was finally able to form his own Big Band.
The success or failure of any Big Band of that time was (and sometimes still is) based on audience acceptance of the sound produced and the popularity and “dance-ability” of the music itself. Although Dad’s true love was the freedom of jazz (educated jazz w/theme & variations), he quickly recognized that his target audience primarily wanted to dance and romance to the music played. He knew that arrangements and certain sounds were also identified with specific Big Bands. He immediately adjusted his personal playing style (and his musical arrangements) to fulfill his target audiences’ requirements. Some called it “Schmaltzy” (they didn’t have to book the Band), but it worked. He was selling a new sound featuring his personal trumpet playing, and his audiences were buying it.
Estimate: $1,500 - $2,500