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:
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:
(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|
Sonny and his Southern Gentlemen (L-R: Duane West, Milo Ligget, Sonny, Gary Robble, Lin Bown) stop by the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.
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.
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.
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.
DATELINE: SATURDAY FEBRUARY 27, 2016
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.
CHURCH: BRENTWOOD HILLS CHURCH OF CHRIST
SERVICE PART 1
SERVICE PART 2
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
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.
Article originally published by CMT on November 1, 2006
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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