James Charles Howard Jr. is an award-winning guitarist, vocalis, 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 gig 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, before Burton played in 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 on Bay Area concerts, sometimes co-billing with Burton’s then 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. 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 that he could make a living from so that he could quit the machine shop day job. In addition, he set his sights on teaching guitar as a way to make money
Shortly thereafter, Howard landed a gig with Heartbeat, a top 40 band working 5-6 nights a week playing 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 Matinee, making good money playing high school and college dances in addition to open concerts for Greg Kihn, Robin Trower and UFO. Rival and Matinee were combination bands, writing, performing and recording original material along with playing cover tunes. Howard did develop
As the 80’s came to a close, Howard, burnt out from the road, 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.
Fast forward to 1994 and Howard has quit Circuit City, broken up with his girlfriend and was back to teaching guitar and playing music fulltime. This time he is fronting the Jim Howard Band. This period ends with Howard starting a vanity record label and self-producing an all original CD, “Electric Rain, in 1998.
After this, Howard underwent a spiritual breakdown/breakthrough experience sending him on a vision quest that eventually lands him in Seattle Washington, where he begins a new spiritual life of musical service. It was at the time that Howard changed his professional name from Jim Howard to James Howard.
In 2008, Howard releases his 2nd CD, a testimony to his spiritual life. “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, releases a live CD. Then in 1016 and 2017, Howard released two live CD’s taken from board mixes of instrumentals that he programmed and performed with the house band at the Center For Spiritual Living in Seatle.
Also 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 2016, Howard and his band the James Howard Band, won the Washington Blues Societies local International Blues Challenge competition. The JHB then went on to represent the WA Blues Society in Memphis, Tennessee at the International Blues Challenge. The JHB won the Washington Blues Society local contest in 2024 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.
Plans for a new 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, acoustic solo, and as lead guitarist for the Kellee Bradley Band.