This is from The Tennessean.

I grew up listening to Sonny James.

R.I.P. Sonny James aka The Southren Gentleman.


Image Credit : YouTube

Country singer Sonny James, whose music went from rural Alabama to the moon, died Monday afternoon, according to longtime friend Gary Robble. He was 87.

As Kix Brooks said in 2006, the year Mr. James was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the singer was “an artist who really dominated his time in history.” His smooth 1956 recording of “Young Love” prefigured the rise of the Nashville sound, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he released 16 consecutive chart-topping singles.

Born James Hugh Loden on May 1, 1928, in Hackleburg, Ala., “Sonny” began performing as a child with his family. At age 3, he received his first mandolin, which was handmade by his father from a molasses bucket. The child would soon learn to play the guitar and fiddle, as well, and win fiddle championships as a teen.

The Loden family played on radio stations and in schoolhouses around the South, and during their travels, Mr. James met a young musician named Chet Atkins, who also would go on to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The two men later crossed paths once again in Music City.

In September 1950, Mr. James’ Alabama National Guard unit was sent to Korea. While he was stationed there, he began seriously writing songs. After leaving the service, he went to Nashville to pursue a career in music. He met up with Atkins, who introduced him to Ken Nelson of Capitol Records. Nelson suggested that he adopt the stage name Sonny James, which was easier for DJs and fans to remember. The singer would soon get the nickname “the Southern Gentleman”; as a soft-spoken and humble man with impeccable manners, Mr. James lived up to that description on stage and off.

“He was the ultimate gentleman,” said Robble, whose vocal quartet, The Southern Gentlemen, recorded and toured with Mr. James from 1964-71. “He knew a lot of people, but when you were talking to him, the only person he knew was you. I was proud to be associated with him.”

Brenda Lee, who toured with Mr. James and the duo Mickey and Sylvia, said she really got to know the “Young Love” singer when they starred on the country music television show, “The Ozark Jubilee,” in the 1950s. The two became dear friends. She was a little girl — 9 or 10 years old — and he was an established star more than twice her age, but he was always unfailingly kind to the young singer.

“I didn’t know that his nickname was the Southern Gentleman; I just knew that he was one of the nicest, sweetest, most down-to-earth people that I had ever met,” Lee said. “Family was always first with him, and the career was second. … I loved him for that.”

Mr. James recorded his first songs for Capitol in summer 1952. Shortly after those sessions, he put his fiddle skills to use when he joined Jim and Jesse McReynolds in the studio and the bluegrass duo made its first Capitol reco