James “Junior” Markham grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and developed an interest in music from listening to blues radio, hearing records of Roy Orbison, and seeing Elvis Presley perform live at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavilion in 1956. Markham landed his first record deal in Los Angeles with Capital Records. Billy Lee Riley, who helped him get the contract, later produced and played on Markham’s album Chuck Meets Bo. In Los Angeles, Markham performed with Leon Russell, J.J. Cale, Carl Radle, and Ace Moreland.
Markham left Tulsa in the early ‘60s for Los Angeles, but returned in 1969. In 1972 he opened the Paradise Club, a nightclub that hosted blues, jazz, and country music. The Paradise Club hosted the talents of Jimmie Vaughan’s Fabulous Thunderbirds, Mose Allison, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Musslewhite, Hubert Sumlin, Koko Taylor, Barney Kessel, Joe South, Albert Collins, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. When away from the Paradise Club, Markham recorded with Jimmy Reed, Albert King, Buddy Holly’s Crickets, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Jerry Lee Lewis, A.C. Reed, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Rolling Stones Pianist Bobby Keyes.
In 1987, Markham left Tulsa for Nashville, where he co-organized the "TNT (Tulsa-Nashville-Transplant) Blowout," a music event for Oklahoma musicians. In Nashville, he worked with Bob Greenlee of King Snake Records.
Markham returned to Tulsa in January 1998. Rusty Miller said of Markham, “He is an institution. I have learned a lot from him; his approach to blues is relaxed. He has the right attitude and it is contagious. He is a spark and pulls the best out of anyone who plays with him.”