Introduction to Sonny James
Sonny James is an American country singer-songwriter popularly known as the “Southern Gentleman.” His first single under Capitol, “There’s Me With You,” gave him his first country top ten hit in 1953. Three years later he would achieve his most successful hit, “Young Love,” that topped both country and pop charts. He would continue to amass more country music chart-toppers such as “Take Good Care Of Her,” “It’s The Little Things,” “Need You,” “I’ll Never Find Another You,” “Heaven Says Hello,” “A World Of Our Own,” and many more. In fact James had a #1 singles streak from 1967 until 1971. Even after the streak, his subsequent singles continued to chart considerably well. James has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, and was honored with a place in the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum. He is now retired and now lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Early life and career, and first recording contract
Also known as “The Southern Gentleman,” country star Sonny James was born James Hugh Loden, in Hackleburg, Alabama on May 1, 1929. Music ran in the family blood; James had been performing around the South along with his four sisters as the Loden Family. The group also had been on various radio programs such as Louisiana Hayride and Saturday Night Shindig. James acquired his stage name while he was still in his teens. He also played as member of Slim Whitman’s touring band for a couple of years. James eventually got to perform alongside country music legend Chet Atkins. It was Atkins who urged James to audition for the Capitol Records. James eventually signed up with Capitol after the label approved his audition.
James’ first single was “That’s Me Without You,” released in early 1953. It almost quickly shot up to Top Ten country charts at #9. Since then James had been a constant presence on the country Top 20 hit singles list, including “She Done Giver Her Heart to Me,” “For Rent (One Empty Heart),” “Twenty Feet of Muddy Water” and “The Cat Came Back.”
Sonny James’ biggest hit with “Young Love”
In late 1956 Sonny James released his own version of “Young Love,” which was written by Ric Cartey and Carole Joyner, and first recorded by Cartey’s group Ric Cartey with the Tiva-Jones also in 1956. It became a crossover chart triumph, going to #1 on Billboard’s both pop and country singles charts in January 1957. Another rendition of “Young Love” by Tab Hunter came out exactly 14 days after James’ version was released, and also went to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Since “Young Love” hit the top of the pop charts, James had been focusing his attention mostly on the pop music side. But his success on the pop department proved to be short-lived, although he still continued to score high on the country charts. For instance, “Young Love”‘s follow-up “You’re the Reason I’m in Love” failed to chart on the Hot 100, although it was on the country Top 10 at #6. The following single “First Date, First Kiss” managed to place itself at #25 on the Billboard Top 40 pop chart (and #9 country), but his subsequent singles only became minor pop hits.
James’ #1 country hits streak
While his singles failed to make it to the Top 40 pop again, James otherwise continued to dominate the country charts, including his amazing #1 country hits streak from 1967 to from 1971:
- “It’s the Little Things”
- “Need You”
- “I’ll Never Find Another You”
- “Heaven Says Hello”
- “A World of Our Own”
- “Born to Be with You”
- “Only the Lonely”
- “Running Bear”
- “Since I Met You Baby”
- “Don’t Keep Me Hangin’ On”
- “It’s Just a Matter of Time”
- “My Love”
- “Here Comes Honey Again”
- “Empty Arms”
- “Bright Lights, Big City”
Later career and retirement
Along with his backing band the Southern Gentlemen, James toured the country as well as abroad, as well as appeared on several television programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show, Hee Haw and The Bob Hope Show. He also made a handful of films that include Las Vegas Hillbillies, Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar, and Nashville Rebel.
Even after James’ #1 streak ended, James continued to score high on the country charts. By then he had also begun venturing into producing and music publishing. He helmed three albums by Marie Osmond. In 1972 he moved to Columbia Records and continued to score high on the country charts (“That’s Why I Love You Like I Do,” “When the Snow Is on the Roses,” and “Is It Wrong (For Loving You)” were all number ones on the country charts, among his other singles that score high on the country Top 10). In 1979 he moved to Monument label and in 1981 to Dimension label.
James retired in 1983, and is now living in Nashville, Tennessee, though some sources say that he is now occupied with raising cattle in Alabama. James has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, and was honored with a place in the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum.