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James/Jim Newill

Full name:
James Morris Newill

1911 - 1975

(Courtesy of the Newill Family)

(Courtesy of the Newill Family)

Special thanks to the Newill Family for sharing family photos as well as remembrances of husband and father James Newill. Above is a family photo circa 2008. From left to right in the back row are son Rick, daughter Colleen, wife Milada and daughter Lada. In the front are Rick's children Ben and Alex.

Prologue: ye Old Corral webmaster - and probably most Old Corral visitors - tend to think that the primary job of our silver screen heroes was movies. Not so with James Newill. He was a big band singer, radio singer, recording artist, and then continued his singing and acting on the Broadway stage, on various radio shows, more. As you read this profile, you'll find James Newill singing with the Phil Harris, Gus Arnheim, and Eddy Duchin orchestras; in recordings and on the stage and radio with Victor Young, David Broekman, Oscar Hammerstein II, Chicago Civic Opera conductor Henry Weber, George Burns and Gracie Allen, more. Somewhere in the middle of all this, he became a Hollywood singing cowboy. Regardless of his primary career, fans of the B-western will always remember James Newill as "Renfrew of the Royal Mounted" and "Jim Steele" of PRC's Texas Rangers trio series.
Chuck Anderson

Profiles of James Newill, as well as his obituary, mention the following:

(Courtesy of the Newill Family)

Above - a publicity still of a young James Newill in the 1930s when he was a member of the Gus Arnheim orchestra. At that time, he was billed as "Jimmy Newell".
James Morris Newill was born in the Pittsburg (Alleghany County) area. The 1920 census has "grocery salesman" John W. Newill, wife Mamie and family residing in Swissvale (Alleghany County) Pennsyvania. Listed in that 1920 census are three siblings: Evelyn, Clyde and Calvin. In the 1930 census, the Newill Family had re-located to Hawthorne City/Ingelwood, Los Angeles County, California. Joining teenagers Evelyn, Clyde M. and Calvin D. is James M. Newill who is 18 years old and a "salesman/bakery".

The Newill family added more details to the above (which I've paraphrased): Mamie Newill was James' birth mother, but had divorced her first husband (James Newill's father) and later married John W. Newill. James was later adopted by John W. Newill. Their Grandmother's name was Mayme (not Mamie) and that was actually a nickname. Her real name was Maria (pronounced Mariah).

From records - as well as newspaper articles and ads - we do know that James Newill sang in the early 1930s with the Mann Brothers, a west coast band whose homebase was Spokane, Washington. In 1932, young Jimmy Newell was vocalizing with the Phil Harris band at the Cocoanut Grove night club at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Beginning in 1933, he toured and sang with the Gus Arnheim orchestra, and that included more performances at the Cocoanut Grove. And he was still performing with the Arnheim band in late 1934.

There's some mentions of big band singer Newill in the tradepapers - for example, the July 7, 1934 issue of Hollywood Filmograph covered the Gus Arnheim Orchestra at the Cocoanut Grove night club in Los Angeles. Quote from that article: "On the stage with Arnheim's greater orchestra, Jimmy Newell crooned better than ever."

He recorded with the Eddy Duchin Orchestra in 1936 ("Night In Manhattan" (Victor 25390-B); "I'll Sing You A Thousand Love Songs" (Victor 25393-B); and "You're Still Mine In My Dreams" (Victor 25395-B)).

During the later half of 1936, he was the singer on the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio show on CBS. At that time, the musical support to Burns and Allen was briefly provided by Duchin followed by a lengthier run by Henry King and his orchestra. By late 1936, Newill had moved on and the new singer for George and Gracie was Tony Martin.

(Courtesy of the Newill Family)

Above and left - a young "Jimmy Newell" singing for the Gus Arnheim Orchestra during Christmas and New Years - from December 19, 1933 through January 1, 1934 - at the Hollywood Dinner Club in Galveston, Texas.

Difficult to read, but in the upper left is "Sam Maceo Presents". You can read more about Maceo and the Hollywood Dinner Club at Wikipedia:

A few weeks prior to that engagement, Newill did some recordings with Arnheim including two in my collection: "Let's Fall In Love" (LA-95-A Brunswick 6729; December 13, 1933) and "Goin' To Heaven On A Mule" (LA-96-A Brunswick 6751; December 13, 1933). And he's definitely a tenor at this time of his life.

Thanks to Alan Cooperman for the above 78rpm record labels of Jimmy Newill with the Eddy Duchin Orchestra circa 1936. Alan does records and record auctions and his website is at:

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