Sonny James, who notched 16 consecutive No. 1 singles, ruling the country music charts for almost 20 years, died from natural causes Monday night in Nashville. He was 87.
James, who was recently hospitalized, was surrounded by family and friends at Alive Hospice at the time of his death, according to a statement on his official website.
His biggest hit, “Young Love,” topped the country charts in 1957. During the 1960s and 1970s, James, who was nicknamed the Southern Gentleman, scored 26 No. 1 hits, including 16 consecutive chart toppers. He spent 57 weeks at the top of the charts between 1960 and 1979. “Need You,” “Here Comes Honey Again,” “It’s Just a Matter of Time,” “Empty Arms” and “Since I Met You Baby” were among his most memorable songs.
James joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, the year he scored his second No. 1 single, “You’re the Only World I Know,” and hosted the first-ever CMA Awards two years later. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006. James was also the first country artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Born James Hugh Loden in Hackleberg, Ala., the country crooner started playing music from a young age, performing with his parents and older sister for a local radio show. The family soon began putting on concerts throughout the South.
After returning from military duty in Korea, he signed with Capitol Records. James moved to Columbia Records almost two decades later, in the mid-70s, releasing his final No. 1 hit, “Is It Wrong (For Loving You).”
James also appeared in the country-music-themed films “Nashville Rebel,” “Las Vegas Hillbillies” and “Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar.”