Hall of Fame Country music entertainer Country Gentleman Sonny James died February 22 of natural causes at the Nashville Alive Hospice at the age of 87. James was surrounded by family and friends at the time of his death.
In a feat seldom seen in modern music, Sonny James sent a string of 16 consecutive singles to the top of the music charts. He had a total of 26 hit records. A songwriter himself, James did not always stick to his own compositions or even covering Country music songs for some of those hits; he also tapped into pop, R&B, and Blues.
He was born James Hugh Loden on May 1, 1928 to farming parents in rural Hackleburg, Alabama. Sonny got his musical start very early; he was only three years old when his father gave his young son a handmade mandolin – the instrument was made out of a molasses bucket. Later Sonny added the guitar and fiddle; winning competitions as a teen.
In the thirties and forties it was not uncommon for a radio station to feature live performances. Young Sonny and his family played at some of those radio stations and in schoolhouses around the South.
Before moving to Nashville and launching his professional solo music career, James served in the Alabama National Guard and served time in South Korea in 1950; his unit was among the first troops in the country when the conflict broke out.
It is James’ fiddle playing that fans of Jim and Jess McREynolds hear on the Bluegrass duos early recordings.
James released his debut single in 1953 – “That’s Me Without You” – and the song reached the top 10 on the music chart. His next big hit would not come until 1956 when he released “Young Love” – which sat at the top of the Country music chart for nine weeks and nearly six month on the Country music chart. A rarity for the early days of rock and roll, the song also crossed over to the pop charts.
James television appearances include “The Ozark Jubilee”, “Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar”, “Nashville Rebel”, “Las Vegas Hillbillies”, “Hillbillies in a Haunted House”, and multiple performances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” He and Bobbi Gentry hosted the first ever Country Music Association Awards show in 1967.
James became a part of the Grand Ole Opry in 1962.
The three man crew of Apollo 14 took a tape of Sonny James’ music with them for listening on their trip to the moon and back. When the crew returned to Earth, they presented James with the American flag they had taken to the moon with them.
As a producer, it was Sonny James who helped Marie Osmond be “s little bit Country” with her hit song “Paper Roses” and her debut solo album by the same name. James also produced Osmond’s next two albums.
James’ album “In Prison, In Person” was recorded at the Tennessee State Prison with the prison band performing on the album with James.
His 1983 sing “A Free Roamin’ Mind” was James last release before retiring from making music. The avid fisherman made a short return to musi when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
He is survived by his wife of over 50 years Doris.
Sonny James discography:
“The Southern Gentleman”
“This is Sonny James”
“The Sonny Side”
“The Minute You’ve Gone”
“Behind the Tear”
“You’re the Only World I Know”
“I’ll Keep Holding On (Just to Your Love)”
“True Love’s Blessing”
“Till the Last Leaf Shall Fall”
“My Christmas Dream”
“Sonny James Sings Young Love”
“I’ll Never Find Another You”
“A World of Our Own”
“Heaven Says Hello”
“The Astrodome Presents in Person: Sonny James”
“Only the Lonely”
“Born to be with You”
“It’s Just a Matter of Time”
“My Love/Don’t Keep Me Hangin’ On”
“I’ll Never Find You”
“The Sensational Sonny James”
“Roses are Red”
“Here Comes Home Again”
“When the Snow is on the Roses”
“That’s Why I Love You Like I Do”
“Sonny James Sings the Greatest Country Hits of 1972”
“If She Just Helps Me Get Over You”
“Love Letters in the Sand”
“The Gentleman from the South”
“To My Wife with Love”
“Is it Wrong”
“The Guitars of Sonny James”
“A Little Bit South of Saskatoon/Little Band of Gold”
“When Something is Wrong with My Baby”
“Sonny James Sings When Something is Wrong with My Baby”
“200 Years of Country Music”
“You’re Free to Go”
“In Prison, In Person”
“This is the Love”
“I’m Looking Over the Rainbow”
“Sonny Side Up”
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