about James

James Charles Howard Jr. is an award-winning guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, band leader and music educator. Born in Oakland CA on June 13, 1963, Howard started his professional career at the age of 15 when his father’s friend glued a fake moustache on him so that he could play lead guitar with the friend’s band at a bar in Clear Lake CA. At 15, Howard was that good. Already being recognized as a child prodigy in Fremont CA, where his family lived at the time, Howard jammed at house parties with fellow teenage bassist Cliff Burton, years before Burton joined Metallica.

At the age of 17, Howard was noticed by rock impresario Mick Jones, (now Mic Flair) and recruited to play lead guitar in Mic’s new band Champion. Champion became a regular act at Bay Area concerts, sometimes co-billing with Burton’s band Trauma.

After graduating from High School, Howard took on a full load of units at Chabot Community College in Hayward CA while working a full time job at a machine shop during the day. One day while working at the band saw, Howard began dozing off. This put the fear of God in him. Noticing that every single one of the old timers that worked at the machine shop were missing parts of their fingers as a result of machine shop accidents, Howard vowed to find a paying music gig so that he could quit the machine shop and make a living playing guitar. In addition, he set his sights on teaching guitar as a way to make money and secured a teaching job at Baldwin Piano’s in San Francisco.

Howard began searching the classifieds for guitar gigs and soon landed a job as lead guitarist for a top 40 band called  Heartbeat. Heartbeat’s members were making a living off of music working 5-6 nights a week at restaurants, hotels, casinos and private corporate gigs. The new band gig required Howard to quit his machine shop day job and his night time college classes in order to travel with the band. This opportunity led to better gigs and Howard spent the 1980’s working as a fulltime musician with the band Rival and then later Matinee, making good money playing high school and college dances in addition to open concerts opening for Greg Kihn, Robin Trower and UFO. Rival and Matinee were combination bands, writing, performing and recording original material along with playing cover tunes. 

As the 80’s came to a close, Howard, burnt out from the road and took another day job selling tv’s, vcr’s and camcorders at Circuit City, and electronics retailer. He settled down with his girlfriend, Yvonne Flores, and bought a house in Benecia CA. He never stopped writing and recording music, however he did not make a living from music for over 5 years. 

Eventually, the relationship broke up and Howard quit the day job and went back to his first love, a life teaching guitar and playing music for a living.

This time Howard teamed up with Steve Swan on vocals and bass and Paul Rahn on drums to form Staright Jacket, a cover band doing all blues and blues rock. This was the chance that Howard was looking for to re-visit his early influences, Hendrix, SRV, and 60’s and 70’s jam bands like Cream, the Doors and the Allman Bros.  Steve Swan did the high vocal songs and Howard handled vocals on the more blues based material of Hendrix and SRV.

During this period Howard was also writing songs and working on a first self-produced CD. In 1998, he founded a vanity record label called Laughing Man Records and released “electric Rain’, an eclectic set of original material that Rock n Blues magazine desribed as a Jimi Hendrix on guitar with John Lennon’s vocals and vision. to he is fronting the Jim Howard Band. 

After this, Howard underwent a spiritual breakdown/breakthrough experience sending him on a vision quest that eventually landed him in Seattle Washington, where he began a new spiritual life of musical service. It was at this time that Howard changed his professional name from Jim Howard to James Howard.

In 2008, Howard released his second CD, a testimony to his spiritual life, called  “Celebrate Life”. The 10 song track list consists of original material and Howard’s popular improvisational blues guitar take on Amazing Grace. The original music on Celebrate Life was an attempt to combine his spiritual life with his secular music combining rock, blues, latin/jazz and acoustic singer-songwriter elements.

In 2012, Howard, released a live CD of recordings combining his original material from his two studio CD’s with blues covers. 

Howard had been a regular house guitarist in the Puget Sound New Thought Church community starting in 2001, the year he moved to Seatle from Benicia. From 2009-2018, he served as lead guitarist in the house band of the Center For Spiritual Living. From 2013- 2018, he was charged with programming 13 inutes of instrumental music for the Sunday church services, 10 minutes of prelude music before the official service starated and a 3 minute instrumental during the offertory. In 2016 and 2017, Howard released two live CD’s taken from board mixes of ithe best of these nstrumentals. Howard considers the first of these two CDs, Devachan, to be his best recorded work, almost entirely improvised and informed and inspired by the setting.

In 2012, Howard won “Best Blues Guitarist” in the 6 String Theory Global Guitar Competition. Sponsored by Lee Ritenour and Yamaha, Howard won with applicants submitting from over 49 countries.

In 2015, Howard and his band the James Howard Band, won the Washington Blues Society’s local International Blues Challenge competition. In January 2016 the JHB spent a week competing in Memphis, Tennessee at the International Blues Challenge rpresenting the WA Blues Society. The JHB won the Washington Blues Society local contest again in 2023 and went to Memphis again to compete internationally. In 2016, the JHB did not make it past the quarter finals in Memphis. In 2024, the JHB advanced to the semi-finals, one step closer to winning the Grand Prize.

Plans for an all blues CD are in the works for 2024 and the JHB hopes to go back to Memphis this year as well. Currently, James Howard continues to perform regularly in the Pacific Northwest with the James Howard Band. You can also see him performing solo singing songs with his acoustic guitar. Howard also is an active sideman backing other artists as lead guitarist, most notably, the Kellee Bradley Band. JamesHowardBand JamesHowardMusic jameshowardmusic/