b. 1893, Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA, d. 19 February 1959, USA. James made numerous records in the first quarter of the twentieth century when his strong tenor voice was well suited to the demands of pre-electric cylinder records. He sang in several of the all-male vocal groups of the era, some of which simply changed their names depending upon the company recording them. Mainly, these groups were quartets and included the Columbia Stellar Quartet, in which he occasionally deputized for Reed Miller, the Knickerbocker Quartet, with George Eldred, William Morgan and Glenn Howard, the Peerless Quartet, and in 1918 he joined the Shannon Quartet, later known as the Shannon Four, replacing Harvey Hindermeyer. Sometimes, this group’s records were released as by the Great White Way Quartet and then, in 1925, with personnel changes, they became known as the Revelers. With the Revelers, James sang alongside Elliott Shaw, Wilfred Glenn and Franklyn Baur, the latter replaced by James Melton. It was with this group that James visited England in 1926. The Revelers also recorded as the Hudson Male Quartet. Indeed, the Revelers is a striking example of the manner in which singing groups of the period adopted different names. They also recorded (sometimes in augmented form) as the Acme Male Quartet, Aeolian Male Quartet, All Soul’s Choir, Campus Glee Club, Columbia Male Chorus, Gaiety Musical Comedy Chorus, Merrymakers, and Singing Sophomores. (It should be mentioned that James was not necessarily on all recordings by these groups.)
In addition to these singing ensembles, James was also with the Crescent Trio, alongside Charles Hart and Shaw, Trinity Choir, and the Victor (Light) Opera Company. The latter spanned the introduction of electric recordings with James appearing on the later recordings. Occasionally, he went under the names of Robert Lewis (‘When The Sun Goes Down In Dixie’ and ‘Would You Take Back The Love You Gave Me?’) and Louis James (as on his popular recording of ‘The Heart Of A Rose’). He also recorded some duets, including ‘Till We Meet Again’, with Hart, a number 1 hit in 1919.