Last received his training as a cadet at the Military Music Schools in Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt on the Main) and Buckeburg.
In 1946, at the age of 17 when he still called himself Hans Last, he was asked to join Hans-Guenther Oesterreich’s Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra as a double-bass player, along with his brothers Werner and Robert. Two years later he became the leader of the Last-Becker Ensemble. In 1955, James Last joined the North German Radio Orchestra in Hamburg. In the early 1950s, he won several jazz polls as a jazz double-bass player.
In 1964, he was offered his own contract by Polydor. This was the starting point of his instrumental music recordings with his orchestra James Last & His Orchestra, a big band with strings and choir added. Some of the music he composes himself and some of it he rearranges. Swing to Pop, but also includes folksongs and classical music. The album Non Stop Dancing marked the start of a career which made him one of the most successful musical artists in the world. Up until today he has sold over 80 million sound recordings.
Especially in the 1970s James Last was celebrated as the „party king“. He created medleys by tying together brief renditions of popular songs with an insistent, characteristic dance beat. This party music had an audience ranging from rock music aficionados to traditional dance music lovers.
Among his most successful compositions are Games That Lovers Play and Happy Luxemburg, but also the themes of German television series like Der Landarzt (The Country Doctor) or Das Traumschiff (The Dream Ship) and of the successful German music show ZDF-Hitparad by Dieter Thomas Hec. He also penned the soundtracks for German films like The Captain (1971) featuring Heinz Ruhman, as well as for Morning’s at Seven” (1968) and At the Height of the Moon, two films based on the successful novels by Eric Malpass. For the series Star Parade with Rainer Holbe, broadcast on the second public German TV channel from 1968 to 1980, he not only composed the theme, but regularly appeared in the shows with his orchestra. His song The Lonely Shepherd was performed by the famous pan flute musician Gheorghe Zamfir in 1977 and received cult status 25 years later when it featured in the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill: Vol. 1.
In 1997 his wife Waltraud died, who had been married to him for 42 years. As he himself said, what helped him overcome his grief were his faith, his music and his second wife Christine. Today, James Last and Christine live in Florida and Hamburg.
James Last went on numerous tours on all continents. Since his first live tour in 1968 he played far more than 2,000 concerts.
In April 2008 the DVD titled James Last – Live At The Royal Albert Hall was released, a live recording of the band leader’s 85th concert at this venerable London venue. And to celebrate his 80th birthday the artist went on yet another tour with 23 concerts. Motto: James Last – Around the World at 80 Years After this tour he was awarded Universal’s Lifetime Award for over 80 million sound recordings sold. His birthplace, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, awarded him the 'Senatsmedaille' for Arts and Science, and in 2009 he became Honorary Senator at the University of the Arts in Bremen.
He is still prepared to give all on the stage and in the studio even over the age of 70. And also to explore new musical paths, nonetheless remaining faithful to himself. Each concert programme features arrangements of current hits alongside his classics Hansi is enthusiastic about songs by Michael Jackson as well as those of Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana or Cher. The Gentleman Of Music does not say stop at hip hop either, as the single Ruf mich an, which he recorded in 1999 together with the German hip hoppers Fettes Brot, shows.
He perceived the arrival of modern technology in artistic work without reservations. At the age of 60 he worked consistently in programmes and for composing and arranging has since swapped piano and manuscript paper for the computer. «He is a worker», say the members of the band.
He does not spend time thinking about retirement, a well filled appointments diary does not scare him – provided that he finds enough time alongside music for his wife Christine and for a further great passion, playing golf.