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Sonny James

Sonny James, the Southern Gentleman, used the popular Nashville sound of the '60s to countrify pop hits of the past into a form accessible to many, broadening country music's appeal across the nation. James even moved over to the pop charts for a time in the late '50s but found the secret of his success by the time he returned to country. During the late '60s, he scored an incredible five-year run of number one singles which locked up the top spot for a combined 45 weeks during the late '60s.

Born James Loden on May 1, 1929, he began performing with his show-business family at the age of three and played with his four sisters as the Loden Family while in his teens. The group appeared around the South and on radio shows like the Louisiana Hayride and Saturday Night Shindig. After spending time overseas during the Korean War, Loden took Sonny James as his stage name -- after his teenage nickname -- and joined the local bar circuit. He met and played with Chet Atkins, who later got him a tryout with Capitol Records. The label liked what it heard and offered James a contract.

His first single, "That's Me Without You," hit the country Top Ten in early 1953, but it was three years before "For Rent (One Empty Heart)" became his second big hit. James, who played guitar on virtually all of his records, followed up with two 1956 Top Ten near-misses "Twenty Feet of Muddy Water" and "The Cat Came Back." His next single became his biggest hit: "Young Love" spent nine weeks at number one during 1956-1957 and crossed over to top the pop charts also.

Beginning in 1957, James began to focus his attention on the popular charts. "First Date, First Kiss, First Love" made the Top 25, but no follow-up placed as high. Several of his failures had still managed to go Top Ten on the country charts, so James returned to country with a vengeance in 1964. "You're the Only World I Know" hit number one country late that year and spent four weeks atop the chart.

That began one of the greatest tears country music has ever known: 21 of his next 25 singles hit number one (and the other four near-misses hit either two or three). James completely dominated the chart from 1964 to 1972, though only several singles crossed over for modest placements on the popular charts. That fact is somewhat surprising, since three-quarters of James' number ones had previously been pop hits, including "Take Good Care of Her" for Adam Wade, "I'll Never Find Another You" and "A World of Our Own" for the Seekers, "Born to Be With You" for the Chordettes, and Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely." Backed by his Southern Gentlemen band, James toured the country and overseas, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, Hee Haw, and The Bob Hope Show, and made several movies, including Las Vegas Hillbillies (1966), Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar (1967), and Nashville Rebel (1967). Billboard named him the Number One Artist of 1969.

Even after James' number one streak ended in January 1972, he continued to place high on the charts. The number two "Only Love Can Break a Heart" (a pop hit for Gene Pitney ten years earlier) was followed by the number ones "That's Why I Love You Like I Do" and -- after moving to Columbia in mid-1972 -- "When the Snow Is on the Roses." James' next chart-topping single, "Is It Wrong (For Loving You)," was released in March 1974, and it began his last major run. He followed with four consecutive Top Ten hits, "A Mi Esposa con Amor (To My Wife With Love)," "A Little Bit South of Saskatoon," "Little Band of Gold," and "What in the World's Come Over You."

By the early '70s, James had moved into producing and music publishing also; he oversaw three of Marie Osmond's albums and still managed occasional Top Tens himself. He picked up the prestigious award of Country Music's Male Artist of the Decade from Record World in 1977 and moved to the Monument label in 1979, then to Dimension two years later. He retired in 1983, and now raises cattle in Alabama. ~ John Bush, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Sonny had a wonderful voice.
chuckholcomb e
Great
noprsur.cj
my mom and dad used to brag about you before you became successful as they used to go to a VFW in ( in I believe Bristol Ct.) Is this right? I used to go to sleep to your 8 tracks. I still remember u. I Luv U. Robin Pahl.!!!!
marleneajohn s t o n
As
beckybelt0
Sonny NEVER sang in the bar circuit. NEVER! He didn't drink or smoke and bars were somewhere he felt he didn't need to frequent. Please check out the great website on him at sonnyjames.c o m .
beckybelt0
Sonny only had one sister - not 4.
hoosierlady4 6 2 3 4
wonderful music the best
mschermer1
I used to have trhe biggest crush on him growing up. Wish I could hear him sing again.
Jack & Bessie , we are 82 years old and have listened to Sonny as long as can remember, he was and his music was perfection, Thanks Sonny for your songs & music will live forever.
loisselig
I love the sound of Sonny....... . . I ' m grateful my children appreciate this kind of music also. My son is 26 and loves quality music
mariongttmnn
Sonny is the best their is no question about that.over the years we have tried to write poetry that when read sticks in the readers mind if you would like to read my work log on to:

WWW.POETRYPO E M . C O M / P O E T R Y 3 8 7 8
mschermer1
No one has a voice like him; you can be in the next room and know it is him.
God only made so many perfect people. The rest have hair and don't appreciate good country music. Thanks, LORD!
My life in his songs
boogiemama00 7
Young Love will always be my all time favorite.
mschermer1
I grew up having a crush on this guy and I still love his mucic (even though I am in my 60's)
I love his music. He was one of the best.
lafeverss45
Very enjoyable country music
monjocoff
A true country singer
larrywill551
The best of classic country.
Sonny sang the songs that county music fans wanted to hear.
jaltman68
I enjoy this music much more than today's so called "hits". Very enjoyable and relaxing.
ashg19630
need more of this kind of music and less of todays so called music
rgspops
Wish we had more of Sonny!!!
he is the best singer there will ever be you wont find a sound like that any more
tomk46482
How can I get "A Little Bit South of Saskatoon"?
superrrrrrrr
cporter04
Awesome. Wish some of the younger generation would listen and take notes.
robertshaft
wow this guy is good
SONNY JAMES WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE SINGERS . HE HAD A GREAT SOUND . GENE
He brings back many good memories I just loved him in the 60's Thanks for sharing

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