Celebrating A Hometown Friend: Rick Hall

A lifelong beloved hometown friend of Sonny has passed. Legendary record producer and Fame studio owner Rick Hall, the man regarded as the “Father of Muscle Shoals Music,” died early Tuesday morning on January 2, 2018. Rick was 85.

We mourn his passing and offer our deepest condolences to his family.

Rick’s Grammy-winning production talents and drive touched nearly every genre of popular music from country to R&B, and his Fame Studio and publishing company were a breeding ground for future legends in the worlds of songwriting and session work, as well as a recording home to some of the greatest musicians and recording artists of all time, including Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett and many more. To date, the studio and its publishing company have been responsible for an estimated 350 million record sales, with songs by everyone from the Beatles to George Strait.

In a phone conversation with Rick on July 29th 2016 which would last over an hour, Rick and Gary Robble reminisced about Sonny and the special friendship and times the two had spent together both fishing the Tennessee River and working in the studio over many occasions. Although it’s never really been noted here or anywhere else, during a struggling time in Sonny’s career long after “Young Love”, in 1962 Sonny and Doris had moved back home to Hackleburg, AL from Hollywood, CA. It was also a time when Rick was building his new FAME Studio however he still had his original studio up and running but just wasn’t producing any official projects at that time as the new building was his primary focus. With Sonny back home and Rick in transition to his new studio, the two would meet up at the old studio and with Sonny on guitar and vocals, and Rick on bass and vocals, the two would work for a few hours getting ideas down on tape but only after they had spent the mornings fishing. During the conversation Rick made a point to mention how he and Sonny were like brothers when they were together.

With the successes which would soon follow in Sonny’s career beginning in 1963, there is no doubt Sonny’s use of R&B material was greatly influenced during these private sessions with Rick and the confidence this provided Sonny in taking these ideas further would soon become a historic direction for Sonny’s career culminating in a streak of 16 consecutive #1’s. A streak which would not have been accomplished without the R&B songs and influence of Rick Hall.

During what would become the last visit of Sonny to my home for a few hours of organizing some business and story telling, I had specifically shared with Sonny how amazing it would have been if in the late 1970’s he had simply gone home to Hackleburg and recorded up the road in Muscle Shoals while turning to Rick as his Producer. The two of them could have put down some very serious guitar based R&B in Sonny’s unique country style but with Rick pushing the edge of that envelope as only he could do. In that moment, Sonny agreed with his boyish smile. But I got the overwhelming sense that the two had already been there and done that — together.

Following Sonny’s passing Rick gave the following gracious interview to local Muscle Shoals paper, Times Daily:


Celebrating Glen Campbell

Celebrating life, friendship and music with one of the great times Sonny shared with Glen Campbell in this 1970 video clip from “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour”. Jerry Reed joins with Glen to perform this Bill Monroe classic with Sonny on fiddle and James Burton on dobro.

2017 Grammy Awards Highlight Sonny James In Memoriam

During the internationally televised Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 13, 2017 with a total viewership of 24.95 million the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences honored Sonny James by including him in not only their full textural listings of those who passed, but graciously included video and audio of Sonny performing “Young Love” during the televised broadcast. Sonny’s performance video was respectfully placed between his Capitol Records peer and friend Merle Haggard and long-time friend and Elvis Guitarist Scotty Moore.

Truly, a gracious recognition of our beloved and dear friend whom we greatly miss.


Grammy Awards In Memoriam Segment Video:



Source GRAMMY.com:

(The following is a list of 833 artists and industry professionals the music community lost in 2016–2017. The 59th GRAMMY Awards telecast on CBS featured an In Memoriam segment highlighting 53 of these individuals via a video tribute, and all of these individuals who died prior to Jan. 11 are included in the official 59th GRAMMY Awards program book. The Recording Academy salutes each individual for their respective talents and contributions to our culture and community.

Colonel Abrams Achieng Abura Tayssir Akla
Francis Akos Edward Albee Roye Albrighton
Michael Alexisch Muhammad Ali Peter Allen
Mose Allison Tommy Allsup Nicholas “Pumpkin” Alvarado
Ernestine Anderson Herb Oscar Anderson Jeff Anderson
Kevin Anderson Lucas Anderson Signe Toly Anderson
Lee Andrews Guda Anjaiah José Luis Armenteros
Brian Asawa Joe Ascione Cash Askew
James Atkins Anahid Ajemian Avakian David Axelrod
Bill Backer Ernesto Baffa Issa Bagayogo
Victor Bailey Jimmy Bain David Baker
Doug Baker Lennie Baker Koyo Bala
Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna Doug Banks Mei Baojiu
Melhem Barakat Gato Barbieri Sunil Bardewa
Allan Barnes Ken Barrie Christopher Barriere aka Mr. 3-2
Tony Barrow Cliff Barrows Sherwin Bash
Leslie Bassett Robert Bateman Johannes Bauer
Robert Baustian Mubarak Begum Raj Begum
Remo Belli Headley Bennett Pascal Bentoiu
Leo Beranek Jonathan Bernbaum John Berry
Kendall Betts Phoebe Binkley Hayward Sherman Bishop Jr.
Roberto Bissonnette Neil Black Winston “Merritone” Blake
Ed Blau Em Bohlka Shannon Bolin Kaye
Paul Booker Jimmy Borges Bimba Bosé
Johan Botha Gérard Bourgeois Jim Boyd
Oscar Brand Loalwa Braz Bobby Breen
Buddy Bregman Leo Brennan Robbie Brennan
Carlos Brock Corry Brokken Clyde Brooks
Douglas “Swipey” Brooks Bonnie Brown Mar Brown
Paul Brown Tommy Brown Don Buchla
Irma Bule Bill Bumgardner Jon Bunch
Billy Joe Burnette Pete Burns Rusty Burns
Earl Solomon Burroughs aka Jack Hammer Bobby “El Charro Negro” Butler John Byrd
Steve Byrd Joe Cabot Denis Čabrić
Al Caiola Lamar Dupré Calhoun aka DJ Crazy Toones Harrison Calloway
Cecil Bustamente Campbell aka Prince Buster Lecresia Campbell Rey Caney
Charmian Carr Inocente Carreño Elisabeth Carron
Keith Carter aka Big Kap Dave Cash Michael Casswell
Geneviève Castrée Donny Catron Danny Champagne
Mike Chapman Eric Charles Charles Chaynes
Phil Chess Steve “Tregenda” Childers John Chilton
Grace Chinga Rick Christian Eddy Christiani
Gavin Christopher Nelson Chu aka DJ Official Barrelhouse Chuck
Franz Cibulka Don Ciccone Roger Cicero
Barrett Clark Guy Clark Joe Clay
Thomas “TC” Clay Mikey Clement Bob Coburn
Mac Cocker Leonard Cohen Ray Colcord
Daryl Coley Benny Collins Ray Columbus
John Conquest Tony Conrad Buster Cooper
Jerry Corbetta Attrell Cordes aka Prince Be Sergei Cortes
Tim Cotton Wade Cox Bob Cranshaw
Caroline Crawley Clifford Crawley Phyllis Creore
Tim Cretsinger Pati Crooker Connie Crothers
Dub Crouch Clifford Curry Phyllis Curtin
Bobby Curtola Robert “Strängen” Dahlqvist Jean-Michel Damian
Micah Danemayer Dan Daniel Mike Daniels
Raymond Daveluy Ken Davidson Peter Maxwell Davies
Bobby “Top Hat” Davis Danny Davis Dennis Davis
Ronnie Davis Rorichannie Davis Renée De Haan
Lupe De La Cruz Gervase De Peyer Nora Dean
Gloria DeHaven John Del Carlo Melina Dellamarggio
Paul Demers Colin Demge Daniela Dessi
Vinjamuri Seetha Devi Harold Devold Alirio Díaz
Richard Divall Billy Dixon Chelsea Faith Dolan aka Cherushii
Nina Dorda Andrew Dorff Elena Doria
Joe Dowell Pádraig Duggan Patty Duke
Anatol Dumitras Lucille Dumont Wayne Duncan
Holly Dunn Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr. Denise Duval
Roland Dyens Kirk Dyer Ben Edmonds
Robert “Big Sonny” Edwards David Egan Bob Elliott
Bobby Ellis Geneviève Elverum Keith Emerson
Adrian Enescu Jon English David Enthoven
Jules Eskin Mack Evans Amar Ezzahi
Brian Faber Richard Fagan Billy Faier
Joey Feek Jack Feierman Thomas Fekete
Mohamed Tahar Fergani Candice Burnside Ferguson Brandon Ferrell
Peter Feuchtwanger Irving Fields Chris Finley
Kevin “Danny” Finn Brien Fisher Carrie Fisher
Mark Fisher aka k-punk Charlie Fite Micky Fitz
Jerry Wayne Flowers Joey Floyd James R. Fonseca
Pete Fountain Don Francks Dave Franklin
Gigliola Frazzoni Bobby Freeman Bob French
Don Friedman Alejandro “Jano” Fuentes Mike “Gabby” Gaborno
Juan Gabriel Brian Gallagher Hernán Gamboa
John Garcia Ernesto Gauna Dick Gautier
George Gaynes Bruce Geduldig Nadine Gelineau
Keith Gemmell Gwyneth George Sonny Geraci
David Gest Alex Ghassan Robin Ghosh
Mike Gibbons Craig Gill Mic Gillette
Hubert Giraud Melvin Goins Benny Golbin
Bob Goldstone Giorgio Gomelsky Nick Gomez-Hall
Paul Gordon Angus R. Grant Gogi Grant
Ron Grant Mark Gray Nigel Gray
Buddy Greco Nik Green Yates Green
Bob Grever Ray Griff Dale “Buffin” Griffin
Gegham Grigoryan Don Grilley Tammy Grimes
Christina Grimmie Ojārs Grīnbergs Piotr Grudzinski
Horacio Guarany Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen Jean Paul Guerrero aka DJ Jinx Paul
Gib Guilbeau Amber Gurung Juan Habichuela
Merle Haggard Andre Hajdu Bill Ham
Ofelya Hambardzumyan Robert Hamlett Joe T. Haney
Ross Hannaford Herbert Hardesty Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Vaughn Harper Dickie Harris Nicholas Harris
Ricky Harris Eddie Harsch Alex Hartness
Ted Harvey Jimmie Haskell Adnan Abu Hassan
Walter Hautzig Bill Hawkins Jimmy Hayman
Leon Haywood Leonard Haze Brendan Healy
Nachum Heiman Jerry Heller Fred Hellerman
Bill Henderson Edmund “Leon” Henderson Florence Henderson
Karl Hendricks Nat Hentoff Bern Herbolsheimer
Ray Hesson Hubert Dwane “Hoot” Hester Mohammad Heydari
Joseph Hibbs Dan Hicks Tyruss Himes aka Big Syke
Radim Hladík Dmytro Hnatyuk Sara Hoda
Chip Hooper David Horowitz Yassy Hosseini
Travis Hough Ken Howard Preston Hubbard
Aaron Huffman David Hughes aka Scabs Karel Husa
Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan Bobby Hutcherson Pete Huttlinger
Johnny Igaz aka Nackt Richie Ingui George S. Irving
Matt Irwin Bud Isaacs Keiichi Ishizaka
André Isoir Alan Jabbour Christine Jackson
Wayne Jackson James Jamerson Jr. Sonny James
Junaid Jamshed Fran Jeffries Wilfred Jeffs aka Bill Sevesi
Karina Jensen Ekrem Jevrić Joan Marie Johnson
Jody Clay Johnson Terry Johnson Anton Jones
Denny Jones Kacey Jones Marshall “Rock” Jones
Randy Jones Sharon Jones Vic Jordan
Kevin Junior Kitty Kallen Eddie Kamae
Candye Kane Paul Kantner Oleg Karavaichuk
Oscar Karlsson Charles Kaufman Howard Kaufman
Michiyuki Kawashima Mike Kellie Bap Kennedy
Herb Kent Jeff Kent Amanda Allen Kershaw
Abdul Rashid Khan Norman Killeen James King
Biser Kirov Carlton Kitto Philip Kives
Sverre Kjelsberg Thandi Klaasen Eri Klas
Zoltán Kocsis Samisoni Koroitamudu aka Big Makk Bob Krasnow
Bill Kyle Julius La Rosa Greg Lake
Pierre Lalonde Werner Lämmerhirt Louis Lane
Penny Lang Tran Lap Edmond Lapine
Marty Laster Dick Latessa James Laurence
Luke Lavelle Kevin Lawrence Seymour Lazar
Sam Leach Vander Lee Jade Lemons
Deke Leonard “Bashful Bob” Letson Ida Levin
David Lewis J. Reilly Lewis Jaki Liebezeit
Joe Ligon Richard Linke Justin “Kid Cali” Lishey
Jane Little Olle Ljungström Gary Loizzo
Rufus Long Andrew Loomis John D. Loudermilk
Charlie “Sonny” Louvin Jr. Sam Lovullo Jim Lowe
Enrique “Quique” Lucca José Lugo Sviatoslav Luther
Mike Lyon Richard Lyons Lonnie Mack
Griffin Madden William Maginnis Timmy Makaya
Gary Malke aka Gary D. Ursula Mamlok Pablo Manavello
David Mancuso Kalabhavan Mani Marlene Marder
Joe Marillo Léo Marjane Micki Marlo
Neville Marriner Rick Marroquin Garry Marshall
Tony Martell George Martin Paul Martin
Ricci Martin Bob Mason Carlo Mastrangelo
Joseph Matlock aka Joey Casio Denise Matthews aka Vanity Ireng Maulana
Gisela May Jason Adrian McCarty aka Dilatedears Bobby Lee McCollum
Gayle McCormick Jim McCoy Henry McCullough
Hugh McDonald Fred McFarlane Draven McGill
Sidney “Doc” McKay John McKellen Sean McKeough
Jeff McLaren John McMartin Kevin Meaney
Gustav Meier Getachew Mekurya José Menese
Nick Menza Lewis Merenstein Louis Meyers
George Michael Rusty Michael Frankie Michaels
Billy Miller Fergus Miller Jack Miller
Ned Miller Lawrence Minors Pete Mitchell
Ivan Mogull Habib Mohebian Michael Mohede
Chips Moman Fernando J. Montilla Scotty Moore
Memo Morales Mariano Mores Jennifer Morris
John Morthland Robert Motherbaugh Sr. aka General Boy Greg Motycka
Hubert Mounier aka Cleet Boris Alphonse Mouzon Otto-Werner Mueller
Edgar Muenzer Edoardo Müller Ronald “Bingo” Mundy
Patrice Munsel Frank Murray Ernie Myers
Guy Nadon Asami Nagakiya Hiroko Nakamura
Billy Name Emilio Navaira Arthur Nayyar
James M. Nederlander Tonio Neuhaus Andy “Thunderclap” Newman
Geoff Nicholls Aurèle Nicolet Josefin Nilsson
Maralin Niska Marni Nixon Fredrik Noren
Lola Novaković Frank Noya Peter Nthwane
Munyaradzi Nyemba Russell Oberlin Hod O’Brien
Lee O’Denat aka Q Claus Ogerman Milt Okun
Pauline Oliveros Horacio Olivo William Onyeabor
Rudy Osborne Olumuyiwa Osinuga aka Nomoreloss Guido Osorio
Johnny P David Page Robert Page
Earl Paige Robert Paiste Pantelis Pantelidis
Jerry Clyde Paradis Margaret Pardee Laurent Pardo
Rick Parfitt Don Parmley Ioan Gyuri Pascu
Anne Pashley Billy Paul Joyce Paul
Robert Paulson aka Cadalack Ron Gary S. Paxton Larry Payton
Stewart Pearce Lou Pearlman Sandy Pearlman
Trisco Pearson Betsy Pecanins Mike Pedicin
Harry Peel Cauby Peixoto Juan Peña aka El Lebrijano
Jean-Jacques Perrey Roberta Peters Erik Peterson
Trever Peterson Marilyn Petrone Lorenzo Piani
David B. Pigg Nelson Pinedo Feral Pines
Adrian Posse Curtis Potter Sylvester Potts
Freddy Powers Joey Powers A.V. Prakash
Georges Prêtre Bill Price Prince
Roland Prince Tavín Pumarejo Curly Putman
Howard Quilling Ismael Quintana Gustavo “El Loco” Quintero
Harry Rabinowitz Brian Rading Richard Fay “Buck” Rambo
Bobby Ramirez aka DTTX Elkin Ramírez Alfonso Ramos
Doug Raney Gordon Ranney Einojuhani Rautavaara
Gil Ray Esma Redžepova Hans Reffert
Clarence Reid aka Blowfly Alberto Remedios Kimi “Qiao” Renliang
Wolfgang Renner Joanna Reyes Debbie Reynolds
Peter Reynolds George Reznik Sir Mack Rice
Roberto “Snaffu” Rigor Jimmy Riley Jean-Claude Risset
Matt Roberts Floyd Robinson Maggie Roche
Thomas Round Allan Rouse Eugeniusz Rudnik
Ben Runnels Leon Russell Keli May Rutledge
Karel Ruzicka Sr. Phil Ryan Lotte Rysanek-Doerle
Amjad Sabri Michael Sacha Peter Sadlo
Morley Safer Adam Sagan Veena Sahasrabuddhe
Kashif Saleem Horacio Salgán Larry Salinas
Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez William “Sonny” Sanders Peter Sarstedt
Andréanne Sasseville Bob Saxton Mike Scap
Heinrich Schiff Ramblin’ Lou Schriver Dorothy “Dottie” Schwartz
Elliott Schwartz Larry Scott Johnny Sea
Tom Searle Derek Serpell-Morris aka DJ Derek Afeni Shakur
Garry Shandling Ross Shapiro Farhang Sharif
Charles “Bobo” Shaw Jean Shepard Rose L. Shure
Nicole Siegrist aka Denalda Nicole Renae Eddy Silitonga Gabriele Sima
Noel “Scully” Simms William Sims Frank Sinatra Jr.
Raynoma Gordy Singleton Tom Size Michael Sklar
Joe Skyward Dale Sledd Vasyl Slipak
Tsvi Small Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor Brett Smiley
Derek Smith Doug Smith Gregg Smith
Louis Smith Rickey Smith Earl Smith Jr. aka DJ Spank Spank
Paul Smoker David Smyrl Gilli Smyth
Danny Smythe Barry Socher Leif Solberg
Tamás Somló Om Prakash Sonik aka Omi Riki Sorsa
Sam Spence Marc Spitz Elton Spitzer
John Stabb Ralph Stanley Kay Starr
Chuck Stearman Jeremy Steig Larry Steinbachek
Lewis “Lewie” Steinberg Rick Steiner Chuck Stewart
Louis Stewart Mary Stewart Michael Stewart
Fred Stobaugh Jadranka Stojaković Chris Stone
Steven Stucky Vi Subversa Jonathan Sutter aka Tenor Fly
Dave Swarbrick Michele Sylvan Mark Taimanov
Ab Tamboer Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye Gordie Tapp
B.E. Taylor Betty Loo Taylor Malik Taylor aka Phife Dawg
Mike “Taffy” Taylor Mieke Telkamp Joe Temperley
Rod Temperton Manolo Tena Gianmaria Testa
Alan Thicke Toots Thielemans John Thomas
Marvell Thomas Sir Charles Thompson Rex Thompson
Elliot Tiber Lupe Tijerina T.J. Tindall
Taylor Tolle Isao Tomita Fred Tomlinson
Veljo Tormis Royal Torrence aka Little Royal Dominique Trenier
Richard Trentlage John Trickett Greg Trooper
Butch Trucks Mduduzi “Mandoza” Tshabalala Bob Tubert
Robert Tuggle Charlie Tuna Tommy Turner
L.C. Ulmer Pat Upton Chayito Valdez
Ramon “Boo” Valdez Rudy Van Gelder Vincent Van Haaff
Karl David Van Hoesen Jimmie Van Zant Richard “Rick” Vanaugh
Naná Vasconcelos Palani Vaughan Colin Vearncombe aka Black
Bobby Vee Alan Vega Alex Vega
Les Waas Freddie Wadling Carlos Walker aka Shawty Lo
Don Waller Eddy Wally Bob Walsh
Conor Walsh Bunny Walters Ann Ward
Chris Warren Rob Wasserman Tyriece Watson aka Lor Scoota
Pete Overend Watts Fritz Weaver Fred Weisz
Bobby Wellins Papa Wemba Jacques Werup
John Wetton June Whisnant Donald H. White
Maurice White Ruth White Trentavious White aka Bankroll Fresh
Max Wilcox Gene Wilder Monty Lee Wilkes
Allan Williams Kim Williams Mentor Williams
Toni Williams Bob Williamson Claude Williamson
Ruby Wilson Gerhard Wimberger Jeff Windisch
Alan Wise Brandon Chase Wittenauer Elliot Wolff
Victoria Wood James Woolley Bernie Worrell
Martha Wright Rick Wright Steve Wright
Zhou Xiaoyan Glenn Yarbrough Pete Yellin
Nora York Adam Young Jimmy Young
Steve Young (Colourbox co-founder) Steve Young (country singer/songwriter) Umy Youngblood
Robert “Bob” Younts Mick Zane Bernard Zaslav
Allan Zavod Pete Zorn  

Hollywood, California: December 2nd, 1966


Sonny and his Southern Gentlemen (L-R: Duane West, Milo Ligget, Sonny, Gary Robble, Lin Bown) stop by the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

Remembering Lin Bown: The Southern Gentlemen’s 1st Tenor

As far as Sonny James and The Southern Gentlemen were concerned Lin Bown was the best blending first tenor that ever was. Originally from Easton, Massachusetts, Lin was the youngest of the Parsons when he took over the 1st tenor spot with this church college acapella quartet in 1961 at the age of 17. Their unique blend and close harmonies identified them as a group rather than as four distinct individuals. Their sound captured the attention of many people even before they joined Sonny in Nashville. They did all the vocal background for the first country music extravaganza held in the old Madison Square Garden in early 1964 which led them to doing all the on-screen vocal background on the movie Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar. When they joined Sonny James for the first time in August 1964, Sonny’s next single went to #1 on the Billboard charts which was Sonny’s first #1 since Young Love nearly 8 years before. There was really nothing special to say about Lin Bown, Gary Robble, Duane West and Glenn Huggins other than when they put their voices together magic happened and everybody recognized it.

On November 14, 2016, after an extended illness, Lin Bown was peacefully laid to rest in his beloved San Isabel Mountains just outside of his home-place in Pueblo, Colorado joining in death baritone Duane West (June 2002), Sonny James (February 2016), and bass singer Glenn Huggins (August 2016).

For the third time this year we say another earthly goodbye, this time to our top-note, and may I say it again – the best there ever was. It is with great sadness that we say a temporary goodbye to our wonderful blending friend, Albert Linwood Bown, remembering that his favorite song we recorded with Sonny James was ‘Til the Last Leaf Shall Fall from the religious album we recorded in 1965.

Someone once said “the key to life is remembering”. We remember, now and for always – because we will always have the music.

Sonny James – Korean War Veteran




Mr. Running Bear Reaches Other Side

He was their bass singer and by the time East Liverpool, Ohio’s Glenn Huggins had lived out every singer’s dream, he would forever be known as “Mr. Running Bear”.  Originally called the Parsons, their average age was almost 18 when they started singing at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Massachusetts in September 1959. Little did Lin Bown, Gary Robble, Duane West and Glenn Huggins know what the next dozen years would bring their way – that’s what dreams are for. 

On August 28, 2016 in Greeley, Colorado, Glenn Huggins, “Mr. Running Bear”, bass singer in Sonny James vocal group The Southern Gentlemen, forever known for his bass part on the huge #1 song Running Bear in 1969, crossed the raging river to the other side.

It is with great sadness that we say a temporary goodbye to our wonderful friend – but those of us in the business know this one thing – the music lasts forever. It was a good ride Huggins – a very good ride – now soar with the eagles.

First Of May – Remembrance of Sonny’s Birthday

May 1, 1928

When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall,
We used to love while others used to play.
Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by,
Some one else moved in from far away.

Now we are tall, and Christmas trees are small,
And you don’t ask the time of day.
But you and I, our love will never die,
But guess who’ll cry come first of May.

The apple tree that grew for you and me,
I watched the apples falling one by one.
And I recall the moment of them all,
The day I kissed your cheek and you were mine.

Now we are tall, and Christmas trees are small,
And you don’t ask the time of day.
But you and I, our love will never die,
But guess who’ll cry come first of May.

When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall,
Do do do do do do do do do,
Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by,
Some one else moved in from far away.

WSM’s Eddie Stubbs Memorializes Sonny James


After hearing for decades about the town of Hackleburg, Alabama, I was finally able to make the pilgrimage there. The occasion was, by no means, a happy one. Jimmie Hugh Loden, professionally known as Sonny James, was laid to rest that day in his beloved hometown. He had died at the age of 87, from natural causes, on February 22, 2016 at Alive Hospice in Nashville. I attended the memorial service held in Brentwood, Tennessee two days before, however, I felt compelled to make the three-and-a-half hour journey to pay my last respects at his funeral.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in the south to honor the Southern Gentleman, as he was known. Upon arriving in the town of Hackleburg, I first noticed the lingering devastation left behind by a horrific April 2011 tornado that nearly destroyed the entire town. Following this tragedy, Sonny James was heartbroken by the effects this storm had on his cherished hometown.

Sonny’s funeral was held in the gymnasium of the brand new Hackleburg High School. I made note of the newness of the appearance of the building, not aware that this school had only recently opened last fall.

The service, completely pre-arranged by Sonny James down to the last detail, with hundreds of people in attendance. Like Sonny himself, his home-going celebration of life was conservative, but at the same time, purely first-class. The people that came were not only residents of Hackleburg, but many were personal friends of Sonny James, including local members of the National Guard unit he had served in during the Korean War. I’ve never been one to attend a funeral just to see who else might show up, however, I couldn’t help but notice that no one else from the professional music industry in Nashville was in attendance.

At the completion of the service, I was approached by Hackleburg High School basketball coach and history teacher, Mr. Ronnie Anglin. Mr. Anglin was very kind in facilitating the pictures you see with this post. As a lifelong resident and history buff, he escorted me to various points of interest in the tiny town. It was sad to see so many leveled lots where businesses had once stood in this northwestern Alabama community. He readily confirmed what many could only speculate, in that, Sonny James NEVER forgot where he came from.

Mr. Anglin shared both his kindness and his knowledge of the town and Sonny James, taking me to locations such as the former Loden family’s dry goods store building (which amazingly was one of the few structures in the business district to survive the tornado), and Sonny’s parents’ home, which still remains in the family. Mr. Anglin was kind to spend a portion of his Saturday to provide a valuable history lesson about the town’s most famous native son.

It was interesting to observe Hackleburg’s outpouring of respect in the form of large black bows, which were placed on every business, light pole, and stop sign, including the front door of the former Loden’s dry goods store building. What a kind and meaningful gesture to witness.

Before heading out of town that afternoon, we stopped at Cedar Tree Cemetery to pay respects to his gravesite, as the interment service was private. It warmed my heart to see so many beautiful flowers present on Sonny’s grave, in the Loden plot adjoining his parents’ final resting place.

The seven hours of travel time that day allowed me a lot of time to reflect on the amazing life and career of Country Music Hall Of Fame member, Sonny James. As a person and as a Christian, they came no finer than Sonny James. He was a gentle man, and a true southern gentleman, the likes of which are becoming fewer all the time.

On a personal note, Sonny was always kind to me. Over the past twenty years, we had many long conversations, in person and on the telephone, about the rich heritage and traditions of the earlier country music that we both loved and cared so deeply about.

God bless his wife, Doris, in her continued convalescence. Your thoughts and prayers for this beautiful, precious lady, would be greatly appreciated by all who know and love her.

New York Times Article Upon Sonny’s Passing

Memorial Service: Nashville, TN – February 25, 2016




Nashville’s RCA Studio A Thrives After Near Demolition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Saturday may be one of the few times crowds of people passed through the historic walls of RCA’s Studio A.

With cameras in hand and music in the speakers, visitors took a step back in time to celebrate the building’s 50th anniversary.

Little has changed since Studio A opened in 1965, but if it weren’t for a few key players it may instead be another new condo building in a growing Music City.

“It became the symbol for the change in Nashville, that wasn’t the good side of the change,” singer, songwriter, producer and current tenant Ben Folds said.

Last summer a residential developer bought the building. With the end in sight, preservationists stepped in to save it.

“Its not a feeling I anticipated. It was just a knee jerk reaction to get involved in something that didn’t have anything to do with me. By the time this thing was over, it’s a really good feeling,” songwriter, Terry Bruce said.

It’s been 50 years of music in the making.

“Whether it’s Elvis Presley, whether it’s the Everly Brothers, whether it’s Marty Robbins, Sonny James, Johnny Horton, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline,” explained investor Mike Curb.

The list is too long to name, but they linger there. It’s what makes the studio so special.



“You know I’m not a big hippie about these things, but you start to feel it, you can feel that the room is made for that,” said Folds.

In less than a year the building went from the demolition block to the National Register of Historic Places.

“They now understand the special nature of the sound here and how we almost lost this special place,” historian Dr. Carroll Van West said.

It proved the importance of preserving the past paves the way for the future.

“This is something huge for the community, not the music industry. I mean this is big for the music industry, but the ripple effect of what this building holds as far as for the city itself and tourism and education purposes is incredible,” supporter and historian enthusiast Mike Wolfe said.


By: Jonquil Newland
Nashville News Channel 5: www.newschannel5.com/news/local-news/rcas-studio-a-thrives-1-year-after-near-demolition

The Direct Influence of Nat King Cole

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The R&B Songs of Sonny James

Barry Gibb with Sonny James and Greg Robble

Young Love: History of a #1 Cross-Over

Nash Country Weekly 1995

Sonny James: The Southern Gentleman (1995)

Originally Published December 12, 1995 in Nash Country Weekly
Paul Ladd | Published: May 16, 2012

When you think about the all-time superstars of country music, the name Sonny James may not immediately pop into your mind. But Sonny, known as “The Southern Gentleman,” was a megastar, reeling off an incredible 16 No. 1 hits in a row.

No one’s done that before or since — and it’s doubtful anyone ever will.

To hear Sonny talk, with that gentle voice and modest, unassuming manner, you’d never suspect he was the Garth Brooks of his day.

In a remarkable career spanning more than 30 years, Sonny’s amazing achievements have earned him a secure place in the history of country music.

True, Garth’s sold more records than Sonny ever did; Eddy Arnold’s had more hits; and Conway Twitty had more No. 1 songs. But nobody except Sonny has ever put 16 *consecutive* hits at the top of the *Billboard* country charts.

And that didn’t even count his first No. 1 — monster hit “Young Love” — in 1957.

Born James Hugh Loden on May 1, 1929, in Hackleburg, Ala., Sonny got his first guitar, which was handmade by his father, when he was only 3 years old.

“It’s true, and that guitar is now in the Country Music Hall of Fame,” Sonny told COUNTRY WEEKLY, with quiet pride in his voice.

From age 4 on, Sonny sang with his sister Thelma and his parents, Della and Archie — “Everyone knew them as Mom and Pop” — in the Loden Family group. He had his own radio show when he was still a teenager.

After serving in the Korean War with his activated National Guard unit, Sonny was discharged in 1952 and went to Nashville to visit his old buddy Chet Atkins.

“I met Chet when I was a teenager,” Sonny recalled. “In fact, we roomed together in Raleigh, North Carolina, when we were playing at the same radio station.

“When I got out of the Army, I spent a week with Chet and his wife in Nashville. He introduced me to his friend Ken Nelson, who was with Capitol Records.

“After dinner, Chet and I began woodshedding on our guitars. We played a few songs I had written, then Chet turned to Ken and said, `What do you think, Ken?’ And Ken said, `I’d like to record him.’ ” That was the start of Sonny’s fabulous career. Billed as the Southern Gentleman because of his tall, elegant appearance and gracious manner, Sonny racked up a total of 23 No. 1 hits between 1957’s “Young Love” and 1974’s “Is It Wrong (For Loving You)”.

“Young Love,” was also a sensational crossover success, and soared to No. 1 on both the country and pop charts.

But it wasn’t until 1967 that Sonny launched his incredible streak of 16 chart-busters in a row. The No. 1s included:

1967 — “Need You,” “I’ll Never Find Another You” and “It’s The Little Things.”

1968 — “A World Of Our Own,” “Heaven Says Hello” and “Born To Be With You.”

1969 — “Only The Lonely,” “Running Bear” and “Since I Met You, Baby.”

1970 — “It’s Just A Matter Of Time,” “My Love” “Don’t Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Endlessly.”

1971 — “Empty Arms,” “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Here Comes Honey Again.”

What was it that made Sonny so popular? The 66-year-old living legend, now retired and living with his wife, Doris, in Nashville, paused before answering.

“I always tried to do material that fit me,” he explained. “We’d do a variety of material — ballads, up-tempo and even bluesy songs — but I stayed the same. I tried to give the fans the kind of songs they had come to expect. I think that was the reason I had such success.”

Sonny’s friend, Grand Ole Opry star Jim Ed Brown, agreed: “He knew his voice and he knew his music. He’s a good man.”

In 1973, Sonny changed hats and became a producer, turning out Marie Osmond’s cover of the pop oldie “Paper Roses.” It became Marie’s first hit record, crossed over to the pop charts and virtually launched her career.

Sonny James Caps Hit-Rich Career With Hall of Fame Entry

Article originally published by CMT on November 1, 2006

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.

Sonny James isn’t giving interviews. But don’t get the wrong idea. He isn’t playing hard to get just because he’s being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Monday night (Nov. 6). The problem is he can hardly talk.

“I’m doing OK,” he says in a barely audible whisper when he returns CMT.com’s call. “This is something that just came up. What happened is they gave me too much medicine in the [throat] muscles. It’s not my voice [that’s impaired] — it’s the muscles on either side. I was supposed to be like this for about a week, but it’s been almost three months. It’s driving me crazy.”

James gasps out a few more reassuring words, vows he will do the interview when his voice returns and refers the questioner to his old friend, music business mogul Mike Curb, for further biographical revelations. “He knows more about me than I do,” James promises.

Unless you were listening to country music before the 1980s, you may be a bit fuzzy about just who Sonny James is. But between the early 1950s and the late 1970s, he was a musical colossus. During that period, he racked up 23 No. 1 hits — 16 of them consecutive ones — and an additional 19 Top 10s.

Dubbed “the Southern Gentleman” because of his dapper appearance and courtly manners, James frequently performed his hits on major network variety programs, including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Bob Hope Show and The Jimmy Dean Show. If gaining visibility for country music had been the sole criterion for admission, James would have been comfortably ensconced in the Hall of Fame decades ago.

Born James Hugh Loden in Hackleburg, Ala. on May 1, 1929, he grew up in a performing household. He got his first guitar when he was 3 — a handmade gift from his father — and quickly mastered both that instrument and the fiddle. The Loden Family — James, his parents and his four sisters — toured extensively in its home area and had its own live radio show in Birmingham.

Prior to securing a contract with Capitol Records in 1952, James worked such star-incubating country shows as the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport and The Big D Jamboree in Dallas. He also spent 15 months serving in the Korean War.

After Chet Atkins helped him get his Capitol deal, James proved his worth by making a Top 10 debut in 1953 with the single “That’s Me Without You.” He continued to chart in the higher regions for the next three years. Then, near the end of 1956, Capitol released what would prove to be James’ career-making song, “Young Love.”

“Young Love” arrived just as rock ‘n’ roll was beginning to flex its muscles and the teen market was emerging as a distinct and powerful buying force. Although he was by this time a ripe 27, James delivered the song’s dreamy lyrics with such tender adolescent sincerity that it raced to the top of the country and pop charts in early 1957. It stayed at No. 1 on the country chart for nine weeks.

While the song gave James an enduring identity, it wasn’t exactly his key to the kingdom. He continued to chart consistently and well but didn’t score another No. 1 until “You’re the Only World I Know” peaked in early 1965. The song held the summit for four weeks.

Following that achievement, the No. 1s and Top 5s rolled in — “I’ll Keep Holding On (Just to Your Love),” “Behind the Tear,” “True Love’s a Blessing,” “Take Good Care of Her” and “Room in Your Heart.”

Starting with “Need You” in 1967, James launched a record of consecutive No. 1 country songs that wouldn’t be broken until 1985 when his fellow homestaters, Alabama, steamed past him with its 17th “consecutive” chart-topper, “Forty Hour Week (For a Livin’). Ever the gentleman, James showed up to congratulate the band when it officially celebrated the occasion.

It should be said here that Alabama (who outpaced James) and Earl Thomas Conley (who matched James’ string of No. 1’s) did so only via some creative accounting. Joel Whitburn, who tallies up, classifies and publishes Billboard‘s chart declarations, decided he would not count “Christmas hits, re-issues, B-sides and duos (unless they add to the streak).”

If Whitburn hadn’t made these exclusions, James would still have the longest consecutive stretch. Alabama’s “Christmas in Dixie,” which came out in 1982 and stalled at No. 35, ended the band’s string of straight No. 1’s at eight, strictly speaking. Conley has his train of 16 only if you ignore his duets with Gus Hardin and Anita Pointer, neither of which reached the top. James’ achievement record is unblemished by such anomalies.

Among James’ parade of 16, which lasted until 1972, are such durable gems as “I’ll Never Find Another You,” “A World of Our Own,” “Born to Be With You” and “It’s Just a Matter of Time.”

James moved from Capitol to Columbia Records in 1972 and made a big splash out of the box with “When the Snow Is on the Roses,” which went No. 1. His final No. 1 — at least to date — came two years later with “Is It Wrong for Loving You.”

In 1973, James showed another side of his musical savvy by producing Marie Osmond’s first solo hit, “Paper Roses.” It went to No. 1 on the country chart and No. 5 on the pop chart.

Even with his top singles behind him, the affable singer continued to release evocative and memorable music through the remainder of the decade — tunes such as “A Mi Eposa Con Amor (To My Wife With Love),” “Little Band of Gold” and “You’re Free to Go.”

After leaving Columbia, James recorded for Monument and the short-lived Dimension Records. He last charted in 1983 with one of his own songs, “A Free Roamin’ Mind.” In the intervening years, little was heard from or about the singer other than words of praise from dyed-in-the-wool country fans.

But in 2002, Country Radio Broadcasters presented James with its Career Achievement Award, an honor reserved for such premier entertainers as Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and the aforesaid Alabama.

Mike Curb, James’s long-time friend and musical colleague, made the presentation. He pointed out that James had shown a particular talent for successfully adapting songs from other formats to country audiences, and he added, in no uncertain terms, that James ought to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Now it’s assured he will be.

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