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Sonny James, The Southern Gentleman

Singer | Musician | Entertainer | Songwriter | Producer
16 Consecutive #1 Country | 26 Total #1 Country | 72 Charted Releases
Recording Artist of the 1950’s, ’60’s, ’70’s, and ’80’s | Country Music Hall Of Fame Legend

The Passing of Sonny James – February 22, 2016


“Sonny James opened the doors of Nashville to me. He was the first person to invite me into a recording session at The Quonset Hut in 1964, and it started a friendship that lasted our whole life time. When I became Billboard Producer of the Year in the early 1970s, I realized that I needed to find someone better than me to produce Marie Osmond. I called Sonny who produced “Paper Roses” which went all the way to #1. I also got to witness Sonny’s first #1 country record “You’re The Only World I Know”. More important than all of that was a lifetime of friendship with Sonny and Doris; even seeing him the last two days of his life will have eternal meaning for me.”

Mike Curb


Sonny James was 87 years of age. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, this country music legend of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s began his meteoric rise to fame with his multi-million selling 1956 hit “Young Love”. However, his legendary status was granted throughout the 1960’s and 70’s with his 26 #1 country hit singles, which includes his string of 16 consecutive #1 hit singles. To this day, Sonny James is recognized for his decades of holding the record for the most consecutive #1’s by any solo recording artist throughout all musical genres.

Recently hospitalized, James passed away on Monday, February 22, 2016 from natural causes while surrounded by family and friends at Alive Hospice in Nashville, TN.

Throughout his life he has stood always at the ready to share a funny story. Accompanied by his boyish smile, this man of deep faith never failed to cultivate his unique gift of making every friend feel as if they were his greatest friend every step of the way.

With immense admiration we say thanks to this dear and beloved friend to so many. No words exist to express our loss and sorrow at this time.

    HITMAKERS 1960-1979

  • Weeks at #1: Ranked 1st
    (Sonny James | Buck Owens | Merle Haggard)
  • Total #1 HITS: Ranked 3rd
    (Conway Twitty | Merle Haggard | Sonny James)
  • Billboard Point Rankings: Ranked 5th
    (George Jones | Buck Owens | Johnny Cash | Merle Haggard | Sonny James)
  • Top 10 Hits: Ranked 7th
    (Loretta Lynn | George Jones | Buck Owens | Merle Haggard | Conway Twitty | Charley Pride | Sonny James)


CMT.COM: “James was that rarest of artists, one who moved fluidly for years between country and pop music with equal authenticity and acceptance.” – READ MORE

MUSICROW.COM: “Between 1953 and 1983, James sent 72 singles to the country chart.” – READ MORE

BILLBOARD.COM: “His streak of 16 consecutive No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart from 1967 through 1971 established a success level that went unsurpassed for close to two decades…” – READ MORE

NYTIMES.COM: “But unlike other exponents of the Nashville Sound, who were drawn to material written exprerssly for the country market, Mr. James often recorded versions of recent pop and rhythm and blues hits…” – READ MORE

FOXNEWS.COM: “His hits included “It’s the Little Things,” ”You’re the Only World I Know,” ”I’ll Never Find Another You,” ”Empty Arms,” ”Behind the Tear,” ”Take Good Care of Her,” ”When the Snow Is on the Roses,” ”That’s Why I Love You Like I Do” and “Here Comes Honey Again.”” – READ MORE

ABCNEWS.GO.COM: “Sonny made country music more commercial. He wasn’t trying to. He was singing what he enjoyed singing.” – READ MORE

CNN.COM: “Sonny James, who ruled the country charts for nearly 20 years…” – READ MORE

DAILYMAIL.CO.UK: “Dolly Parton salutes him as ‘one of the greatest’…” – READ MORE

TWITTER.COM #SonnyJames: Marie Osmond, Glen Campbell and many more sharing their love and condolences. – VIEW POSTS

FACEBOOK.COM: Condolences and thoughts shared by so many for the loss of Sonny James – VIEW POSTS

Did You Know?


In the midst of the American Civil Rights era with his #1 release of Adam Wade’s “Take Good Care of Her” in 1966, Sonny was the first country artist to record and deliver an R&B song into the country music mainstream. During his highly successful run of 16 consecutive #1 hits, beginning in 1969 of the next 7 singles James recorded – 5 had previously been moderately successful releases for soulful R&B artists Ivory Joe Hunter, Brook Benton, Clyde Otis and Jimmy Reed. Those 5 songs were Since I Met You Baby, It’s Just A Matter of Time, Endlessly, Empty Arms and Bright Lights, Big City – all of which reached #1 on the Billboard country charts.

From the inception of the R&B genre in 1949 through 1971 when Sonny’s last such recording topped the charts, no other country artist ever achieved such success with R&B material. The 2nd country artist to reach #1 with an R&B song would not occur again until April of 1976. And so from the beginnings of R&B in 1949 until April 1976, Sonny James stood alone for 27 years as a true innovator towards the broader appeal of what country music could be. Learn More…

1963: Sonny James & Nat King Cole in collaboration at Capitol Recording Studios, Hollywood CA


Sonny produced the first 3 albums for Marie Osmond. The first album went Certified Gold in the US and the first single “Paper Roses” also received a Certified Gold recognition. The phenomenal success of “Paper Roses” would see Marie nominated for a Grammy Award. Each of these three albums also contained recordings of a number of James’ #1 hits.

An industry powerhouse and long-time close friend of Sonny’s Mike Curb, who had overseen Donny Osmond’s solo hit covers of oldies like “Go Away Little Girl,” “Puppy Love,” “Sweet and Innocent,” and “Hey Girl,” used the same approach with Marie. According to Curb in the book Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits by Fred Bronson, when Curb was looking for country songs for Marie to record for her first album, Sonny James suggested Marie sing “Paper Roses” which had been a #5 Pop hit for Anita Bryant in 1960.

“Paper Roses” was the first song James’ recorded of Marie, and also her first single release. The single was released in August 1973. MGM promoted the single first to country radio, and received a favorable reaction to the song from radio stations and disc jockeys. Soon the song became a hit for Osmond, going all the way to #1 on the country charts. Before long, the song crossed over to pop radio as well, becoming a #5 Pop and #1 Easy Listening singles hit in the US as well as receiving similar success internationally.

Upon reaching No. 1, Osmond became — at less than one month after her 14th birthday — the youngest female artist and youngest overall solo artist to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, a record that still stands.

Sonny’s productions of Marie Osmond’s first 3 albums and initial release of “Paper Roses” sold over a million worldwide.

Capitol Records released his signature song “Young Love” in late 1956. This giant hit became one of the most recognizable songs ever recorded. It was the first Traditional Country/Teen cross over record. Followed by fellow Capitol artist Ferlin Huskey’s “Gone” and later Marty Robbin’s “White Sport Coat”.

YouTube Playlist:

The 26 #1 Hits of Sonny James

[Courtesy of Richard Custer]

On August 30th of 2006, the day it was announced Sonny James was to be an inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Kix Brooks (Brooks And Dunn) probably said it best, “This is an artist who really dominated his time in history.”

Similar accolades from fellow entertainers began early in James’ career… Elvis Presley, from the best seller book “Elvis, Word for Word” was asked “who do you think’s the greatest country and western singer that’s alive today” his reply, “I like Sonny James”.

Friend Kris Kristofferson presents plaque to Sonny commemorating
James’ Induction Into the Country Music Hall Of Fame

Learn how Nat King Cole’s collaboration with Sonny James in 1963 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood became the formula for the greatest streak of Consecutive #1 Singles the recording industry has ever known in any genre from a solo artist before or since.