Sonny James, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and singer of the 1956 crossover number 1 pop hit Young Love, has died after being recently hospitalized. He was 87.
A statement was issued to the media on James:
Sonny James was 87 years of age. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, this country music legend of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s began his meteoric rise to fame with his multi-million selling 1956 hit “Young Love”. However, his legendary status was granted throughout the 1960’s and 70’s with his 26 #1 country hit singles, which includes his string of 16 consecutive #1 hit singles. To this day, Sonny James holds the record for the most consecutive #1’s by any solo recording artist throughout all musical genres.James was born James Hugh Loden in 1929 Hackleburg, Alabama, the son of amateur musicians. He was already playing mandolin at the age of 3 and, the next year, his family booked a regular slot on WMSD in Muscle Shoals.
Recently hospitalized, James passed away today, February 22nd 2016 from natural causes surrounded by family and friends at Alive Hospice in Nashville, TN.
Throughout his life he has stood always at the ready to share a funny story. Accompanied by his boyish smile, this man of deep faith never failed to cultivate his unique gift of making every friend feel as if they were his greatest friend every step of the way.
With immense admiration we say thanks to this dear and beloved friend to so many. No words exist to express our loss and sorrow at this time.
After a couple of years as part-time musicians, Sonny's family leased out there farm and they became full-time musicians. In late-1949, the family band broke up and, at the age of 22, James struck out on his own.
Sonny went on to play with Slim Whitman and appear on the Louisiana Hayride and Big D Jamboree but a stint in Korea interrupted his race to stardom. Upon returning in 1951, he signed to Capitol Records with the help of Chet Atkins and scored his first hit the next year with That's Me Without You which went to number 8 on the country charts. He released numerous singles over the next few years with only one, She Done Gave Her Heart to Me (1954 / #14 country), charting but, in 1956, everything started to come together. He became a regular on ABC's Ozark Jubilee and had four straight country top twelve hits that was capped off with Young Love. Not only was the song his first country number 1, but it crossed over and also topped the Billboard charts. A competing version by actor Tab Hunter also hit the top of the charts.
A couple of more country hits came his way before another dry spell as James tried to find a sound. He left Capitol in 1959 and recorded for the National Recording Company, Dot and RCA before returning to Capitol in 1963 with the hit The Minute You're Gone.
Now known as "The Country Gentleman", James became a regular in the country top ten, a position he would hold into the late 70's. From 1967 to 1971, Sonny had sixteen straight number 1 country records, the most by any artist in any genre.
- Need You (1967 / #1 country)
- I'll Never Find Another You (1967 / #1 country)
- It's the Little Things (1967 / #1 country)
- A World of Our Own (1968 / #1 country)
- Heaven Says Hello (1968 / #1 country)
- Born to Be With You (1968 / #1 country)
- Only the Lonely (1969 / #1 country)
- Running Bear (1969 / #1 country)
- Since I Met You Baby (1969 / #1 country)
- It's Just a Matter of Time (1969 / #1 country)
- My Love (1970 / #1 country)
- Don't Keep Me Hanging On (1970 / #1 country)
- Endlessly (1970 / #1 country)
- Empty Arms (1971 / #1 country)
- Bright Lights, Big City (1971 / #1 country)
- Here Comes Honey Again (1971 / #1 country)
Plus, if Only Love Can Break a Heart hadn't peaked at number 2, he would have managed nineteen straight.
Interspersed in that list of hits were a number that were originally R&B hits, something that rarely happened in country music. Over his career, he covered songs by Etta James, Adam Wade, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Ivory Joe Hunter, Brook Benton, Clyde Otis and Jimmy Reed, among others.
In the 70's, James also became a producer, helming Marie Osmond's first three albums, including her breakthrough as a soloist, Paper Roses.
Overall, James had 26 number 1 country records and 72 tracks that made the charts. Other honors throughout his career was being the first country artists on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1961), being named Male Artist of the Decade by Record World for both the 60's and the 70's and being elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
James is survived by his wife of 58 years, Doris.