Born in Hackleburg Alabama May 1, 1928, Sonny James (Jimmie Hugh Loden) would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
With a natural talent for playing stringed instruments it would be at the age of four, when placed at the centerpiece of his family's country show consisting of his mom and pop Loden, sister Thelma and friend Ruby Palmer, is where he first began to realize his potential to entertain others.
Because he was just a kid he was affectionately called "Sonny Boy" by family and friends, yet by 1952 when he signed with Capitol Records this six-foot three-inch talent was re-billed as The Southern Gentleman, a tag that portrayed his unyielding polite ways.
In 1956 as rock-n-roll was just beginning Sonny's multi-million selling Young Love exploded on the scene and became a simultaneous #1 country and pop hit - the first such traditional country cross-over of it's kind.
By 1963 a collaboration at Capitol Studios in Hollywood with Nat King Cole, a fellow Alabama native and favorite of Sonny and his father, would begin to focus Sonny's musical approach into a more pop-sounding style of country in the hopes of broadening the country listening audience.
Beginning in 1964 with the addition of The Southern Gentlemen made up of bassist Milo Liggett, backing vocalists Lin Bown, Gary Robble, Duane West and Glenn Huggins; a refined musical style was immediately found to be identifiable by listeners. Supported by the Capitol Records team led by Ken Nelson, Sonny began what would become his legendary streak of 16 consecutive #1 releases - an uncontested record which no other solo recording artist has ever surpassed in any genre.
A mere decade later, Sonny James had amassed a surreal 16 #1's in a row, and 26 #1's in total culminating in 72 titles on the country charts. From 1966 through 1971 six of his most popular #1 recordings had previously been released by soulful R&B artists Adam Wade, Ivory Joe Hunter, Brooke Benton, Clyde Otis and Jimmy Reed.
Sonny's broad appeal not only as a performer, but an entertainer, brought him into larger and larger markets and venues as he created new paths for others to follow which had not previously been welcoming to country artists in general, including his numerous appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Always an integral part of his sound and style, his mastery of the guitar as a musician added a depth to his recordings and stage appeal which translated perfectly to television. His full vocal tones backed by his "Southern Gentlemen" created a sound that was awarded time after time with great success.
The first country recording artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, his hits "The Minute You're Gone", "You're The Only World I Know", "It's Just A Matter Of Time", "Running Bear", "Empty Arms" and so many more - make it easy to realize that at the same time the world was beginning to listen to music from the British invasion of the 1960's, they were hearing Sonny James on country radio.
Immediately following his string of #1's, Sonny went on to produce the first 3 albums for Marie Osmond, which saw the first single, Paper Roses, surpass sales of 1 million worldwide and Marie was nominated for a Grammy Award.
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.
Jimmie Hugh Loden (Sonny James) is survived in life by his beloved wife of 58 years Doris Shrode Loden, sister-in-law Sally Ribble, niece Donna and husband "Joe" Mora, nephew Chuck Holcombe, Terry, Pam and Trent Holcombe.
Preceded in death by his father Archey Loden, mother Della Loden, and sister Thelma Lee Holcombe.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Nashville, TN.
Memorial Service: Thursday February 25, 2016, 1:30 PM, Brentwood Hills Church of Christ, 5120 Franklin Road, Nashville, TN 37220.
Funeral Service: Saturday, February 27, 2016, 1 PM, Hackleburg, AL, Hamilton Funeral Home, 101 Falcon Circle, Hamilton, Alabama 35570, (205) 921-3197.
Published in Tennessean on Feb. 24, 2016.