Country music bid a sad farewell to the one they called ‘The Southern Gentleman,” Sonny James (James Hugh Loden).
Coined “The Southern Gentleman” due to his polite mannerisms, this country legend was raised in a musical family in Hackleburg, Alabama on his families farm. Dubbed “Sonny” shortly after a performance of “Sonny Boy”, this mandolin playing singing musical protege earned his nickname at the age of three. Country music was mostly live performances and the family group, known as “Sonny Loden and The Southerners” would frequently play local radio station shows, theaters, auditoriums, and school houses throughout the southern United States.
As time went on, the band disbanded and Sonny continued his musical career on stage and radio and then evolved with the time into television and even outer space. Sonny was the first country performer to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, made appearances on both the Bob Hope Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Johnny Cash Show, as well a numerous others, hosted the first ever Country Music Awards show together with Bobbi Gentry, and even was the first to have country music in space as his recordings were requested to go along with the Apollo 14 space mission to the moon.
His career is an assemblage of honors and awards which include the following:
- 1961 – Became the first country artist (recording division) to be honored with a star in the prestigious Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 1962 – Joined the world famous Grand Ole Opry
- 1967 -Hosted the first CMA Award Show
- 1960’s and 70’s – Named Male Artist of The Decade by Record World
- 1987 -Inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame
- June, 2001 – Male Golden Voice Award – Golden Voice Awards
- November, 2001 – Master Achievement Award, R.O.P.E. AWARDS
- June, 2002 – Career Achievement Award – The Country Music DJ Hall of Fame and Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc.
- August 30, 2006 – Country Music Hall of Fame
- 2009 – Inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame
Sonny James made a name in country music in the early 1960’s by introducing his new sound of R&B to the country music audience during a time of civil unrest and bringing light to number one hits such as Since I Met You Baby, It’s Just A Matter of Time, Endlessly, Empty Arms and Bright Lights, Big City previously recorded by Ivory Joe Hunter, Brook Benton, Clyde Otis and Jimmy Reed.
According to Billboard statistics, for almost 20 years (1960-1979) Sonny James spent more time in the Number One chart position than any other artist in country music — a total of 57 weeks, 16 Consecutive #1 Singles, a feat never before accomplished in Country Music, Pop or Rock ‘n Roll.
Sonny James could be consider the first country crossover as his 1957 hit “Young Love” made it way to number one on the pop charts.
In addition to his own musical talents, Sonny James could also be credited as an award winning producer. Working together with Marie Osmond back in the early 1970’s, James recorded Marie Osmond’s first three albums. The first single released, Paper Roses” was a song previously released by Anita Bryan in 1960 on the pop charts. Released in 1973 and promoted through country radio, Marie’s version climbed the country charts to number one, crossing over to the pop charts, easy listening, and international charts and earned her a Grammy nomination, making her a household name in the country music industry.
A legendary musician and well loved and admired by all that knew him, Sonny James truly left his mark on Nashville’s country music family.