Canada''s Howie James (Nanaimo, BC) is hard at work recording for his first album of all original music this fall entitled Don''t Be Ashamed. At 75 years young this may come as a bit of a surprise to friends and family who figured the old crooner was done with making any major moves. Howie only ever played covers in his time, but something changed this year, and he started laying down tracks of his own. This swingin'' collection of jazz, country, gospel, folk, rock and a little boss nova flavoured tunes is already sounding like timeless standards, with songs of love and faith that will make you feel you know this smooth entertainer from way back. Howie wrote every song himself, singing all the tracks with passion, while playing his fabulous vintage Gibson guitar with all the skill and subtlety the years have bestowed upon him.
This crowd pleasing disc will also feature guest spots from top talent including John Sheard (CBC''s Vinyl Cafe) on piano, Anne Lindsay (Blue Rodeo, Natalie McMaster) on the violin, and Tom Keenlyside (Dizzy Gillespie, Tom Jones, Diana Krall) on sax. Rather a family affair, Don''t Be Ashamed is being produced by Howie''s great-nephew; singer songwriter Reid Jamieson (Toronto/Victoria) who just moved to Howie''s old stomping grounds in Vancouver.
Howie James is a legendary but extremely humble entertainer, who made his name back in the sixties and seventies by resurrecting the old Quadra Club in Vancouver, and defining nightlife at hot spots like The Livingroom and the Coach House. His smooth vocals and remarkable guitar stylings were a mainstay of Canada''s night clubs and hotel lounges for several decades, garnering him praise from critics and fans alike.
Although a natural born entertainer, Howie is actually quite shy and has never looked for fame. But despite his humble ways, and only a couple of early recordings, his name and reputation are well know by those with a taste for class acts. Currently living with his lovely wife on Vancouver Island, he continues to gig with his gorgeous 1950''s Gibson in hand, the very same one he has played for much of his career.
In February of 2007 Howie played a sold out show with his great-nephew Reid Jamieson in Victoria, a show he didn''t realize was to be his surprise 75th birthday party. The pairing was an instant success and this special event touched him like no other. To prepare for the concert Howie pulled out a couple of original tunes he had stashed away, and despite his feeling that folks would rather hear standards they knew, the audience response was amazing. Since that day he was struck by inspiration and started writing up a musical storm. February of 2008 will see the culmination of this creative renaissance, in a full length recording of all original Howie James compositions entitled Don''t Be Ashamed. Please stay tuned...
Howie was born on February 6th, 1932. 75 years ago. The same year and month as Johnny Cash. He shares a birthday with Axl Rose, Ronald Reagan, Rip Torn, Fabian,
Zsa Zsa Gabor, Natalie Cole and Babe Ruth.
He was raised in the small northern town of Powassan Ontario.
In a typical effort to make things easier on folks, Howie shortened his last name from Jamieson to James.
His father played the fiddle.
His great nephew Reid Jamieson is a fellow performer who lives in BC as well.
Howie was in the artillery during the Korean war from January 1951 to November 1953. Although he never saw battle, he was an instuctor in parade square drill, heavy guns, radar and small arms. Mostly stationed in Victoria at Work Point and Gordon Head.
One of his greatest heroes is the fabulous Tony Bennett.
Howie once sang a duet with Leonard Nimoy (Spock!) in Vancouver at a CBC kids telethon in 69 or 70. They performed ''Cottonfields''. Howie performed on CBC television regularly at that time.
Howie was on the Cross Canada Barn Dance With Evan Kemp for 3 months in 1962. This was a national broadcast which went coast to coast. Howie was a back up singer, soloist and rhythm guitarist. One of our guests on the show was Johnny Cash.
Howie was once a model for the Hudson''s Bay Company - have a look!
In Vancouver and on the Island here, Howie has shared the stage with some great people such as Buff Allan, John Capon, Bill Cave, Pat Coleman, Wayne Finucan, Ray Haynes, Ken Lister, Henry Young and many more.
Howie shares a manager with his nephew Reid, Carolyn V. Mill who he affectionately calls ''the Colonel''.
"Quadra club owner Gordon Town has always credited singer guitarest Howie James with making the Quadra a success over the past six years."
"Anyone who consistently makes it in the local clubs has to have something going for him...Howie James, the man with the People Power at The Living Room, and consequentially the highest paid single entertainer in town, is on of them."
"Howie James and the Jamesman have turned the place (The Quadra) into the town''s most swinging non-rock roost."
"Howie James singing the blues at The Newsman Club is one of the better things around town. You havent lived until youve heard him sing tunes from Sesame Street to the slightly spiffed midnight mob." (1971)
"Howie James, the guitarist who sings so well, is actually Howie Jamieson who once sang with Evan Kemp and friends on radio and TV."
"At the Quadra Club...pleasant group called Howie James and the Jamesmen... absorbed much of the nightclub sophistication. the result is a man who can sing the standards and set the atmosphere. This kind of atmosphere is the kind you want...appeals to the introvert in us all" (1966)
Lorne Parton - Vancouver Province
"I heard Howie James singing and playing to a packed house at the Quadra...If there was a college course on ways to satisfy steadily the biggest possible audience, the faculty, led by lawrenece Welk, should include Howie (James). I think every young musician eyeing a commercial career should watch and listen to James at work." (1969)
"Its nice to welcome the coolest of them all, Howie James, back to the nightly scene. He and accompanist Clive Gard opened recently at Clementine''s, Ken Stauffer''s refurbished flashback in the Lulu belle on West Broadway....The set I caught was typcal James: all kinds of material from his bag of musical and vocal tricks, and I must admit I was especially taken with the sophisticated sambas and bossa novas." (1975)
Bob Smith - Vancouver Sun
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