James Loden, 1 May 1929, Hackleburg, Alabama, USA. The Country Music Hall Of Fame includes a guitar that Sonny James father made for him when he was three years old. James has been performing since that time and has played fiddle and guitar with the Lodens family revue. Sonny won several junior fiddle championships, although he was to play guitar on his records. He was signed by Capitol Records in 1953 and marketed as Sonny James by producer Ken Nelson. James had his first US country hits with Thats Me Without You, She Done Give Her Heart To Me and For Rent, and made the UK Top 30 with a record that is now a childrens favourite, The Cat Came Back. He had a number 1 record on the US pop charts with Young Love in 1957, which was also a number 1 record for film star Tab Hunter. Hunter repeated his success in the UK charts, but James only reached number 11. (The original version of Young Love by composer Rick Cartey is long forgotten.) First Date, First Kiss, First Love made number 25 in the US pop charts and James had 19 other records in the Hot 100. Because he was tall, quiet, respectable and good-looking, he became known as the Southern Gentleman.
James left Capitol and recorded for NRC and RCA Records, but returned to Capitol and enjoyed numerous country hits between 1963 and 1971, including 16 consecutive number 1s. His hits included Youre The Only World I Know, Behind The Tear, Take Good Care Of Her, The Minute Youre Gone, which was covered by Cliff Richard, and A World Of Our Own and Ill Never Find Another You, two of the Seekers pop hits that he covered for the country market. He appeared in several low-budget country films, including Second Fiddle To An Old Guitar, Nashville Rebel, Las Vegas Hillbillies (with Jayne Mansfield) and Hillbilly In A Haunted House (with Basil Rathbone and Lon Chaney). James has also revived pop songs for the country market including Only The Lonely, Its Just A Matter Of Time and Running Bear, all three being number 1 records. His 1972 number 1, Thats Why I Love You Like I Do, was a remade and retitled version of the b-side of Young Love, Youre The Reason (Im In Love). He switched to Columbia Records in 1972 and continued his success with When The Snow Is On The Roses, Is It Wrong (For Loving You)? (both reaching number 1), Little Band Of Gold and Come On In. He produced Marie Osmonds transatlantic Top 10 revival of Paper Roses and made an album inside Tennessee State Prison. The 57-year-old singer recorded a new version of Young Love for Dot Records, but the album, particularly the track Youve Got Your Troubles, exposed some shaky vocals. In total, Sonny James has had 72 records in the US country charts including 23 number 1s, which makes him one of the most successful country artists in history.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.