James Henry Fillmore Jr. was born in Cincinnati, Ohio as the eldest of five children. In his youth, he mastered piano, guitar, violin, and flute, as well as the slide trombone, which at first he played in secret, as his conservative religious father believed it an uncouth and sinful instrument. Fillmore was also a singer for his church choir as a boy. He began composing at 18, with his first published march "Higham", named after a line of brass instruments.
In the 1920s, he was back in Cincinnati, directing the Shriners Temple Band, which he turned into one of the best marching bands in the country.
In 1938, Fillmore retired to Miami, Florida, but kept active in his later years organizing and rehearsing high school bands in Florida. Henry Fillmore Band Hall, the rehearsal hall for many of the University of Miami's performing groups, including the Band of the Hour, stands today as a tribute to Fillmore's work in the band genre. There, he wrote his final piece, "President's March". Fillmore lived out the rest of his days in South Florida.
A prolific composer, Fillmore wrote over 250 tunes and arranged orchestrations for hundreds more. He also published a great number of tunes under various pseudonyms. Henry Fillmore wrote under a series of different names such as Harold Bennett, Ray Hall, Harry Hartley, Al Hayes, and the funniest, Henrietta Moore. The name that caused a conflict was Will Huff, because there was a Will Huff who composed marches and lived in his state and area.
Fillmore gained fame as the "Father of the Trombone Smear", writing a series of fifteen novelty tunes featuring trombone smears called "The Trombone Family". A number of these have a strong ragtime influence. All of Fillmore's trombone rags are:
Music to Fillmore's popular "Trombone Family" series