Jimmie Hugh Loden (May 1, 1928 – February 22, 2016), known
professionally as Sonny James, was an American country music singer
and songwriter best known for his 1957 hit, "Young Love". Dubbed the
"Southern Gentleman" for his congenial manner, his greatest success
came from ballads about the trials of love. James had 72 country
and pop charted releases from 1953 to 1983, including an unprecedented
five-year streak of 16 straight Billboard #1 singles among his 26 #1
hits. Twenty-one of his albums reached the country top ten from 1964
to 1976. James was given a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1961
and co-hosted the first
Country Music Association
Country Music Association Awards Show in
1967. He was inducted into the
Country Music Hall of Fame
Country Music Hall of Fame in
1.1 Musical beginnings
1.2 Top of the charts
1.3 #1 streak beginnings
1.4 Billboard #1 streak
1.5 Personal life and death
5 External links
Jimmie Hugh Loden was born on May 1, 1928 to Archie Lee
"Pop" Loden and Della Burleson Loden, who operated a 300-acre (120
ha) farm outside Hackleburg, Alabama. His parents were amateur
musicians, and his sister Thelma Lee Loden Holcombe also played
instruments and sang from an early age. By age three he was playing a
mandolin and singing and was dubbed "Sonny Boy". In 1933, the family
appeared on a radio audition which resulted in their being offered a
regular Saturday slot on
Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Muscle Shoals, Alabama radio station WMSD-AM.
About this time the parents volunteered to raise an Alabama girl named
Ruby Palmer, and soon Ruby was also part of the musical group, and the
singing Loden Family, later billed as Sonny Loden and the Southerners,
was soon playing theaters, auditoriums and schoolhouses throughout the
Southern United States.
To this point the musical appearances had been a part-time effort for
the family, as they returned after each gig or tour to work the family
farm. After a few years the father decided they were professional
enough to immerse themselves into the field full-time, so the father
leased out the farm and they took a daily spot on radio station KLCN,
where they provided early-morning accompaniment for the area's
early-risers. After that they had spots on several other radio
stations around the South. In 1949, they returned to Alabama, with a
show on radio station WSGN in Birmingham, Alabama. Near Christmastime
that year, the two girls were married in
West Memphis, Arkansas
West Memphis, Arkansas in a
double ceremony and left the group. The parents found other girls
to take their place, but the group soon disbanded (the parents
returned to Hackleburg and opened a clothing store, where James worked
while belatedly finishing his final year of high school). During
the summer of 1950, James worked with a band, sometimes singing but he
was most useful as a guitar player on the
Memphis, Tennessee radio
On September 9, 1950, his career was interrupted by the Korean War
Alabama Army National Guard
Alabama Army National Guard unit was activated. After
military service in Korea, James moved to Nashville, where he spent a
week staying with
Chet Atkins and his wife. James had roomed with
Atkins years earlier in Raleigh, North Carolina when they were playing
at the same radio station. Atkins invited
Capitol Records executive
Ken Nelson to join them for dinner. James stated, "After dinner Chet
and I began woodshedding on our guitars. We played a few songs I had
written, then Chet turned to Ken and said, ‘What do you think,
Ken?’ And Ken said, ‘I’d like to record him.’” Nelson
asked him to drop his last name professionally believing there were
already several musicians named Loden, Louden or Luden, and that
"James" would be easier to remember: "The smallest children can
remember Sonny James."  So he released his first studio record as
Sonny James. While appearing on Louisiana Hayride, he met musician
Slim Whitman. James' performance on stage playing a fiddle and singing
brought a strong crowd response, and Whitman invited him to front for
his new touring band. James stayed with Whitman's group for only
two months when Whitman felt he had to do some club work to keep up
his income to be able to pay his band. The Loden family had only
appeared in schoolhouses and such and Sonny agreed to stay on for a
few shows until Whitman could find his replacement. For the
remainder of his career he never played a club performance. Over the
next few years, he had several songs that did reasonably well on the
country music charts and he continued to develop his career with
performances at live country music shows. He also appeared on radio,
including Big D Jamboree, before moving to the all-important new
medium, television, where he became a regular performer on ABC's Ozark
Springfield, Missouri beginning in October 1955.
Following his long streak of #1 hits, James is also remembered for his
1975 #6 song "A Little Bit South of Saskatoon" that was in the 1977
Paul Newman hockey comedy Slap Shot.
Top of the charts
James in 1957
In late 1956 James released "Young Love", a 45 rpm single for which he
would forever be remembered. As the first teenage country crossover
single, it topped both the US country and pop music charts in January
to February 1957. Record sales could have been higher if Capitol
Records had anticipated the exposure on popular-music charts; they had
ordered only enough copies of the record to satisfy the anticipated
country-music demand, and were therefore unable to supply most of the
requests for records. The track peaked at No. 11 in the UK Singles
Chart. It sold well over one million copies, and was awarded a
gold disc. Dubbed the Southern Gentleman because of his polite
demeanor, he gained more exposure with an appearance on the popular Ed
Sullivan Show and the
Bob Hope Show.
Thus began a seven-year search for a sound that gave him a lasting
career. Two more years at
Capitol Records didn't produce it and they
parted ways in 1959. James signed with National Recording Corporation,
and then stints with Dot (1960–1961), RCA (1961–1962), his second
time with Capitol (1963–1972), and later with Columbia
(1972–1979), Monument (1979) and Dimension (1981–1983).
In 1962 he returned to his roots and became a member of the Grand Ole
Opry and a year later signed again with Capitol Records. From 1964 to
1972 he was a dominant force in country music. James and his Southern
Gentlemen appeared on the major TV shows during that period including
(Ed Sullivan, Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Dean, Mike Douglas,
Merv Griffin, The Joey Bishop Show, was a multi-time guest on Hee Haw,
also on the
Johnny Cash Show and made minor singing appearances in
four motion pictures.
#1 streak beginnings
On August 15, 1964 James made his first appearance with a vocal group
that had been together for five years. The group consisted of Lin Bown
- 1st tenor, Gary Robble - 2nd tenor, Duane West - baritone and Glenn
Huggins - bass. These four young men had started singing as freshmen
Eastern Nazarene College
Eastern Nazarene College in
Quincy, Massachusetts in 1959, and in
September 1962 they transferred to a sister college in Nashville
Tennessee. 16 months later in January 1964 they replaced the
Jordanaires as the
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry quartet. James felt he finally found
the combination that propelled him into his second career - that sound
he had been seeking for seven years. So these young 21 and 22 year-old
men, along with Sonny's multi-talented bass player Milo Liggett,
became The Southern Gentlemen, joined 36-year-old
Sonny James and
quickly headed into country music history.
Two months later, James had his first #1 Billboard hit since Young
Love - topping the country charts with the song he co-wrote with Bob
Tubert, You're The Only World I Know. His next five releases peaked on
the Billboard country charts at 2, 1, 3, 1, and 2 (though all five of
them hit #1 on either Billboard, Record World or Cashbox).
With his musical style now refined and his "sound" on records and on
personal appearances produced to be immediately identifiable, Sonny
James was set to begin what became his legendary streak of 16 straight
#1 singles - an uncontested record which no other solo recording
artist has surpassed in any genre.
Billboard #1 streak
Beginning in 1967 with "Need You" and ending with "Here Comes Honey
Again" in 1971, James recorded 16 straight #1 country singles. His
career #1 total was 26, the last coming with 1974's "Is It Wrong (For
Loving You)". During his career had 72 charted releases.
In 1973 James also helped launch the solo career of Marie Osmond,
producing and arranging her first three albums, including her smash
hit, "Paper Roses".
Personal life and death
In July 1957 Sonny married Doris Shrode in Dallas, Texas.
In the spring of 1984, Sonny and Doris quietly retired to their home
in Nashville, Tennessee. He came home to Hackleburg during the first
annual Neighbor Day Festival on April 20, 2002 and continued attending
the festival every other year. During the April 25, 2009 festival, he
recognized the 100th birthday of the town of Hackleburg on the main
James died on February 22, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of
87. He died of natural causes at Nashville's Alive Hospice,
according to a statement on his official website. He was survived
by his wife. He is buried at Cedar Tree Cemetery, in Hackleburg,
Alabama, alongside his parents and an older sister.
In 1956, as rock and roll was just beginning, Sonny's multi-million
selling single Young Love became a #1 country and pop hit, one of the
first such crossover hits by a country artist.
In 1957, James became the first country recording artist to appear on
The Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1961, honoring his contribution to the music industry, James was
honored with a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6630 Hollywood
In 1967, along with Bobbi Gentry, James hosted the first CMA Awards
From 1969 through 1971, Sonny became the first country artist to
achieve a feat previously not done in the country music industry. In
the middle of his highly successful run of sixteen consecutive #1
hits, of the next seven singles that James released, five had
previously been moderately successful releases for soulful R&B
artists Ivory Joe Hunter, Brook Benton & Clyde Otis and Jimmy
Reed. Those five songs were Since I Met You Baby, It’s Just A Matter
of Time, Endlessly, Empty Arms, and Bright Lights, Big City, all of
which hit #1 on the Billboard country charts.
Billboard magazine named
Sonny James Country Music's Artist
of the Year.
In February 1971, James was the first country artist whose music went
into space; he made a special music recording for the crew of Apollo
14. They later presented him with one of the small American flags that
they had carried to the Moon.
In 1973, James produced Marie Osmond’s first three albums. The first
single “Paper Roses” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs
chart less than one month after her 14th birthday. Osmond thus became
the youngest female and overall youngest solo artist to ever reach the
No. 1 position on that chart, a record that still stands as of 2015.
In 1987, Sonny was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
In June 2001, honored with the Male Golden Voice Award. In November
2001 received the Master Achievement Award / R.O.P.E. Award. In June
2002 honored by the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame and Country Radio
Broadcasters with the Career Achievement Award.
On November 6, 2006, he appeared on television for the first time in
nearly 20 years when presenter
Kris Kristofferson announced on the ABC
Country Music Association
Country Music Association Awards that Sonny was
to be one of its newest inductees. Sonny's acceptance speech opened
with the words, "I want to thank my Good Lord for the career He has
In May 2007,
Sonny James and his Southern Gentlemen were officially
inducted into the
Country Music Hall of Fame
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum,
In 2009 James was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
On August 15, 2015, exactly 51 years to the day when he first teamed
up with The Southern Gentlemen in 1964, James was inducted into The
Birmingham Record Collectors Hall of Fame. Gary Robble, one of The
Southern Gentlemen, accepted the award on behalf of James and all of
The Southern Gentlemen.
Sonny James discography
^ a b c "Sonny James". countrymusichalloffame.org. Oxford University
Press. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
^ Friskics-Warren, Bill (February 23, 2016). "Sonny James, Country
Singer Known for 'Young Love,' Dies at 87". The New York Times.
Retrieved 26 February 2016.
^ "Sonny James, The Southern Gentleman". Sonnyjames.com. Retrieved
February 22, 2016.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k "
Sonny James webpage". Sonnyjames.com.
Retrieved 28 November 2009.
^ a b "Country singer
Sonny James dies at 87". Tennessean.com.
2016-02-22. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
^ a b "
Sonny James at the Country Music Hall of Fame".
Countrymusichalloffame.org. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
^ a b Ladd, Paul (December 12, 1995). "Sonny James: The Southern
Gentleman With 16 Consecutive No. 1 Songs (1995)". countryweekly.com.
Cumulus Media. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
^ Sachs, Bill "Folk Talent & Tunes", 4 September 1955, The
Billboard, p. 16
^ "Slap Shot : Soundtrack". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.).
London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 279.
^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London:
Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 92. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
^ Hanks, Henry (February 23, 2016). "
Country music legend Sonny James
dies at 87". CNN. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
Sonny James (1928–2016) – Find A Grave Memorial".
Findagrave.com. 2016-02-22. Retrieved 2016-11-06.
^ "Sonny James". Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
^ "Record show, concerts set for Gardendale Civic Center this
weekend". North Jefferson News. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sonny James.
Sonny James on IMDb
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