Blues star James Harman is battling stage 4 cancer of the esophagus and begins chemo treatment over the coming week.
Leslie James Harman began piano lessons at age four, and also sang in his local church choir. Harmonicas owned by his father were stored in the piano bench, and Harman tried playing them after his piano lessons ended. In time, he became capable in several other musical instruments, including guitar, electric organ, and drums.
Harman performed as a blues harmonica player and singer in Chicago, New York, and elsewhere before moving to southern California in the 1970s. Here, his Icehouse Blues Band played alongside Big Joe Turner, John Lee Hooker, Freddie King, Muddy Waters, Albert King, B. B. King, T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulsom, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and Albert Collins.
In 1977, he formed the James Harman Band, turning up often at local clubs such as Elario's and the Belly Up. Over the years, their lineup has included Phil Alvin and Bill Bateman, who left in 1978 to form the Blasters; Gene Taylor, who departed in 1981, also to join the Blasters before moving on to The Fabulous Thunderbirds; and Kid Ramos. Alumni also included the late Hollywood Fats who, after leaving his own band in 1980, played alongside Harman for five years.
His debut solo album Those Dangerous Gentlemen was released on the Rhino label in 1987, with a succession of albums released on labels like Black Top, Hep Cat, and Cannonball.
His 2015 full-length Bonetime (Electro-Fi Records) was his first studio album in over twelve years. It earned him five 2016 Blues Music Award nominations: Best Album, Instrumentalist (Harmonica), Song (“Bad Feet/Bad Hair”), Traditional Blues Album, and Traditional Blues Male Artist. On a musical roll once again, he released followups in 2018 (Fineprint) and 2019 (Liquor Parking).
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Harman meet his current and expected medical expenses. Over the first two days since its December 29 launch, around 800 donors have pledged over $43,000.
James Harman Band 1-22-89 Larry Himmel Show
A rare performance video of the James Harman Band on the San Diego TV program The Larry Himmel Show, broadcast 1-22-89, recently surfaced on the YouTube channel BetaGems, which has a playlist called "It Came From San Diego" containing dozens of local band performances from the 70s-2000s, many from never-repeated public access television broadcasts. Also featured are local-centric news clips and footage from longlost TV shows such as Larry Himmel's San Diego At Large and Club 33, with the latter show archiving forgotten performances by the Monroes, the Beat Farmers, the Tell-Tale Hearts, and others.