Sonny James, Country Music Legend, Dies at 87

Prolific hit maker was induced into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006

Sonny James, a music icon whose trove of lighter country hits from the 1950s through the 1980s earned him the nickname the Southern Gentleman, died Monday at age 87.

According to a statement on his official website, James was recently hospitalized and died “from natural causes surrounded by family and friends at Alive Hospice in Nashville, Tennessee.”

His rise began with the 1956 hit “Young Love.” During the 1960s and 1970s, James achieved legendary status in the country music world when he scored 26 No. 1 hits, including 16 consecutive chart toppers. Among the successful songs were “Need You” and “Here Comes Honey Again.”

At the same time, he was also credited as one of the first country artists to see his hits regularly crossover to the pop charts, according to Billboard.

Born James Hugh Loden in Hackleberg, Alabama, in 1929, the performer started playing shows on the radio and across the South with his family from a young age. After a brief stint in Korea on military duty, he quickly gained traction on the Nashville airwaves, leading to a two-decade relationship with Capitol Records.

In 1967, he hosted the first-ever CMA Awards.

After his last single, “A Free Roamin’ Mind,” charted at No. 58 in 1983, James retired to spend more time with his family, and he made few public appearances.