clarinet, C-melody saxophone

James Eugene McHargue was born in Danville, Illinois on April 6, 1902. He taught himself jazz clarinet by copying the work of Larry Shields with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and saxophone by copying early virtuoso Bennie Krueger. During a career than spanned eight decades, Rosy was known at various times as a skilled clarinetist, a gifted arranger, a singer of novelty songs, and a brilliant performer on the rarely heard C-melody saxophone. His professional career began in the early 1920s when he joined a local band called the Novelty Syncopators. During the 1920s Rosy freelanced around the Chicago area, working with the bands of Sig Meyers and Maury Sherman, father of pianist Ray Sherman. His first commercial recordings were with the Seattle Harmony Kings in 1926. He recorded with Frank Trumbauer's orchestra in 1931, and joined the Ted Weems band in 1934. When touring with Weems, his roommate was a young singer named Perry Como. Rosy was a regular guest at Squirrel Ashcraft's Chicago jam sessions, along with Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland and Joe Rushton. In early 1943, weary of life on the road, Rosy left the Weems band and moved to Los Angeles. There he joined Benny Goodman's orchestra on tenor sax, and was featured on the soundtrack of the film "The Gang's All Here." Later the same year he joined Kay Kyser's orchestra on alto sax and clarinet, and remained until 1946. During the late 40s and early 50s, Rosy worked and recorded with the bands of Red Nichols, Pete Daily, and Pee Wee Hunt. Rosy's deliberately "cornball" solo on Hunt's 1948 Capitol recording of "Twelfth Street Rag" earned Rosy international fame, and generated sales of over twelve million copies. In 1951 Rosy organized his own band, which he called Rosy McHargue's Ragtimers. For the next 47 years, despite numerous changes in personnel, Rosy's band enjoyed lengthy engagements at the Hangover Club in Hollywood, the Cottage in Pasadena, Marineland in Palos Verdes, and Sterling's Steakhouse in Santa Monica. Although he and his wife Blanche chose not to have children, they enjoyed a beautiful, 54-year love affair that ended with her death in 1983. As Rosy continued to perform well into his nineties, his fame reached monumental proportions. He was featured regularly at jazz festivals throughout Southern California, usually playing and singing his novelty songs to standing-room-only crowds. At the Los Angeles Classic Jazz Festival in 1996, the only room large enough to accommodate his scores of adoring fans was the lobby. He took a few months off later that year while being treated for Lymphoma, but was in top form again by early 1997. He put on a memorable performance at his 97th birthday party in April 1999, and was still performing until a week before his death, on June 7, 1999.

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