Sonny James was one of country music’s most popular singer-songwriters, producing a string of chart-topping ballads, including the 1957 hit “Young Love.”
Between 1953 and 1983, 43 of his records reached the country music Top 10, and 23 went to No. 1. Between 1960 and 1979, he spent 57 weeks in the No. 1 chart position—more than any other country artist of his era.
Born James Hugh Loden in rural Alabama, he was performing by age 4 with his parents and his older sister as the Loden Family. By the time he was a teenager, he had mastered both the guitar and fiddle and had won several fiddle championships. In the 1950s, he made solo appearances on country radio shows such as “Louisiana Hayride” and the “Big D Jamboree.”
After military service in Korea, James started working with guitarist Chet Atkins, who introduced him to Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson. In 1957, he scored big with “Young Love,” which reached the top of both the country and pop charts.
James, whose gracious, unassuming manner earned him the nickname “Southern Gentleman,” spent several years searching for another hit. In 1963, he bounced back with “The Minute You’re Gone” and became a fixture on the country charts for the next decade. Between 1967 and 1971, he had 16 consecutive No. 1 records, including “Need You” (1967), “Heaven Says Hello” (1968), “Running Bear” (1969), and “Here Comes Honey Again” (1971).