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 Vincent James “Jimmy James” Gamelli

Vincent James “Jimmy James” Gamelli

Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 27 Jan 2004 (aged 91)
Kissimmee, Osceola County, Florida, USA
Burial Kissimmee, Osceola County, Florida, USA
Memorial ID 172594914 · View Source
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Name Vincenzo Gamelli
Event Type Birth
Event Date 11 Aug 1912
Event Place Springfield, Massachusetts
Father's Name Tomaso Gamelli
Mother's Name Emilia Coloma

Vincent Gamelli
Republican, The (Springfield, MA) — Wednesday, February 11, 2004
1912 - 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Vincent "Jimmy James" Gamelli died last week at the age of 91. He was the brother of the late Ralph and Thomas of Agawam and Billy Gamelli and Anne Stanley of Springfield. He leaves his wife Hazel, 5 children, one step-son, 6 grandchildren, and nieces and nephews in Springfield.

Mr. Vincent J. "Jimmy James" Gamelli, 91, formerly of Bartlett from 1954 to 1977, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2004, in Kissimmee, Fla. He was laid to rest in Trinity Lutheran Church Memory Garden in Kissimmee. Mr. Gamelli was born Aug. 11, 1912, in Springfield, Mass. He was known in the entertainment world as "Jimmy James, The Wacky Wizard of the Banjo," and entertained for 67 years throughout the Midwest. He owned and operated the Jimmy James School of Music in Bartlett, until his retirement in 1977. A veteran of the Army Air Corps, he served his country from 1941 to 1945, traveling with the USO show, entertaining and selling war bonds. He was a member of the Frankie Carle Orchestra from 1932 to 1939, and the Chicago-based WLS National Barn Dance radio program for many years. Vincent is survived by his wife of 37 years, Hazel; children, James Jr. (Bonnie) Gamelli of Midlothian, Va., Donald (Theresa) Gamelli of Afton, Tenn., Sam (Susan) Gamelli of Cedar Hills, Texas, Amy (John) Laubhan of Elgin, Meg Barker of St. Cloud, Fla., and Jo Gamelli of Kissimmee; six grandchildren; and one great-grandson. He was preceded in death by his wife and entertainment partner for nine years, Patti Kelly, in 1963; three brothers; and one sister. Friends may visit to express condolences and sign the guest book.
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Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) - Saturday, February 7, 2004

VINCENT J. GAMELLI, 91 Entertainer opened music school
With the stage name Jimmy James, Vincent J. Gamelli got his first job at 15 strumming a banjo in a Springfield, Mass., speak-easy.

By the time he was 20, the 9th-grade dropout was playing trombone and guitar in Chicago with Frankie Carle & His Orchestra, earning $42.75 a week in the early 1930s.

"He lived his life making a living doing what he loved: entertaining and making people laugh," said his daughter Amy Laubhan. "It's probably why he lived so long."

Mr. Gamelli, 91, died of pneumonia Tuesday, Jan. 27, in Kissimmee Memorial Hospital in Kissimmee, Fla., where he retired in 1977.

Born in Springfield, Mass., he left school to help his brother run the family's general store after the death of their father. Despite being poor, Mr. Gamelli's mother and siblings made sure he was able to take banjo lessons, starting at 9.

At 20, Mr. Gamelli moved to Chicago to play with Carle's orchestra, performing big-band music in Chicago and across the Midwest from 1932 to 1939. He left the band to join WLS' "National Barn Dance" radio program, playing banjo and performing a comic routine called the "Virginia Hams" with two other men.

He served in the Army Air Forces from 1941 to 1945, starting out as a teletype operator, then traveling with a USO show and selling war bonds.

"When they found out he was an entertainer, it kept him from going overseas," said his daughter.

He married a singer, Patti Kelly, in 1954. The couple moved from Chicago to Bartlett, starting a family while traveling the Midwest as a husband-wife music and comedy act.

"In 1958, he and my mother toured with Elvis Presley for 17 days," his daughter said.

Mr. Gamelli wrote more than 200 songs, but only one, "I Can't Lie to Myself," made it to the big time. Mr. Gamelli wrote it in the late 1940s or early 1950s, and the song was recorded by several well-known singers, including Ella Fitzgerald in 1952.

After his wife's death in 1963, Mr. Gamelli was faced with raising his young children alone. Relatives offered to take the children, but "he wanted us to stay together," his daughter said.

Mr. Gamelli would drive all night after performances to be home to pack school lunches for his children. But in order to be closer to home, he started the Jimmy James School of Music in a studio built next to their Bartlett house. At its peak in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, the school employed four teachers and had 60 students.

Mr. Gamelli remarried in 1967. After closing his music school and moving to Florida, he and his wife, Hazel, liked to travel the country in their mobile home. And Mr. Gamelli continued to entertain, playing banjo for people around the campfire.

Other survivors include three sons, James Jr., Donald and Sam; two other daughters, Meg Barker and Jo; six grandchildren; and one great-grandson. Services have been held.
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Chicago Tribune (IL) - February 6, 2004

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  • Created by: civilwarbuff
  • Added: 11 Nov 2016
  • Find A Grave Memorial 172594914
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Vincent James “Jimmy James” Gamelli (11 Aug 1912–27 Jan 2004), Find A Grave Memorial no. 172594914, citing Osceola Memory Gardens, Kissimmee, Osceola County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by civilwarbuff (contributor 47049540) .