Jimmy James is a vocal impressionist/illusionist performance artist and former drag artist. He is famous for his vocal impressions of famous female singers or divas, both contemporary and classical, such as Marilyn Monroe and Billie Holiday. He is known for his ability to imitate a wide range of women's singing voices with uncanny accuracy.
Jimmy James was born in San Antonio, Texas. As a toddler he was always singing, dancing and dressing up in his mother's clothes. Growing up in the 1970's, James was brought up by the films of W.C. Fields and his interest in impersonation was initiated through mimicking Mae West in My Little Chickadee, he was also heavily influenced by variety television. Flip Wilson, Carol Burnett and Johnny Carson are some of the shows that are said to have inspired him.
James began to notice his talent for vocal mimicry at a young age, his first impression being that of Cher, a longtime idol of James', developed through watching The Sonny & Cher Show. With dedicated practice on his own, James discovered that he could also accurately imitate voices of Eartha Kitt, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and many others using his impressions as a means to escape. At nineteen James was studying dramatic arts, specifically theatrical make-up in the hope to pursue a career as a make-up artist. As a result of using his own face as a canvas to practice his techniques James discovered a marked similarity between his facial structure and that of the late Marilyn Monroe.
With this discovery James attempted to re-create both her look and the vocal presence. After winning a Halloween contest in 1984 James decided to take up a career as a performance artist impersonating Marilyn Monroe. Believing that the only way to make money in San Antonio as a performer was to take up a career as a drag queen, James took his show "Marilyn Monroe and Voices" (which was both self-written and produced) to the gay bars and clubs of San Antonio. It was there that he received a call from an Atlantic City producer asking James to perform in a production of "La Cage Aux Folles", an offer he accepted but later regretted.
In 1986 James fled Atlantic City to escape his difficult producer and the production of which he had been forced to lip-synch, in the hope of revitalizing his career in Provincetown. James soon became one of the most popular entertainers in Provincetown with his show "The One and Many Voices of Jimmy James". The fame generated by both this show and his Marilyn Monroe impression lead to several regular television appearances on shows such as Donahue, Sally, Geraldo, Joan Rivers, Entertainment Tonight, CNN and Showtime, he gained national and international exposure. James was in high demand world wide from New York to Australia.
In addition to the touring, James was also the face of a number of commercial ad campaigns. Eyewear manufacturer L.A. Eyeworks used an image of James´ Marilyn in a worldwide campaign. One other notable ad was a giant billboard in the center of Times Square featuring James as Marilyn, Bette Davis and Judy Garland advertising clothing manufacturer Kenar.
In January 27, 1998 James saw the release of his first single "Who Wants to Be Your Lover". Although he admits himself he was disappointed with the song, the track hit #1 in Japan. In 1999 James released recordings of his shows performed in Provincetown: "The One and Many Voices of Jimmy James" and "Have Yourself a Jimmy James Merry Christmas" the latter made in the memory of the daughter of a friend of James' who died of leukemia.
In 2002 James released another album, this time recorded in a small club in New York, featuring a few of his work in progress shows. In 2006, after a break from his career as a solo recorded artist, James' recorded "Fashionista" - a pop dance track from his upcoming album Jamestown. The single was featured on Billboard's heatseeker list and peaked at #15 on the dance chart.