Sonny James, Consistent Country Hitmaker

“Young Love,” 1965 TV Performance

The “Southern Gentleman” Sonny James had a string of consecutive #1 country hits in the 1960s and 1970s. Only the band Alabama has ever surpassed that number. In all, James (May 1, 1928-February 22, 2016) had 26 #1s, 16 of which were in a row.

“Runnin’ Bear” on Hee Haw

James was a country crooner, producing his records in the sophisticated style that was popular in Nashville during his reign. He was associated throughout his career with Capitol Records, with whom he began playing backup fiddle for bluegrass acts like Jim & Jesse.

“Endlessly” on The Johnny Cash Show

James looked occasionally to R&B, soul and blues for inspiration. He was inspired and became friends with fellow-crooner Nat King Cole. His hit “Endlessly” was a cover of a song by soul singer Brook Benton. James sought to introduce songs by African-American artists to a largely white audience and to promote amity among the races through music.