James Loden, who performed under the stage name Sonny James, was born May 1, 1929, into a show business family in Hackleburg, Alabama, and was given his ﬁrst guitar, which was made by his father, at the age of three. The next year, the family won a folk music contest in Birmingham. By the time he was in his teens, James had performed on several regional country music shows.
During the Korean War, James informally entertained his fellow servicemen and Korean orphans by playing guitar and singing for them. After his discharge, he moved to Nashville and embarked upon a recording career. In 1956 his recording of the song “Young Love” reached the number one position on both the country and pop charts. For a time he was more at home with pop and rock ’n’ roll, but he returned to country music with resounding success. From 1967 to 1972, he had a string of sixteen consecutive number one hits on the country charts. Known as the “Southern Gentleman” for his neat appearance and elegant manners, James was named Country Music’s Male Artist of the Decade by Record World magazine for his 1960s work. He also appeared during these years in several low-budget movies, including Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar, Nashville Rebel, Las Vegas Hillbillies, and Hillbilly in a Haunted House.
In 1983 James retired to his farm in Alabama. Although his records seldom reﬂected his Appalachian heritage, James’s crossover appeal won many new fans for country music.
Cite this Entry
"Sonny James," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2018, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 19 Jan 2018 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=122>
"Sonny James." (2018) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved January 19, 2018, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=122