Country singer Sonny James, who recorded romantic ballads including "Young Love" and turned pop
songs into country hits, has died. He was 87.
James died Monday in a Nashville hospice facility, according to a family friend, Gary Robble, who was the
lead singer of James' backing band, the Southern Gentlemen.
His death was attributed to natural causes, according to a statement released on his website.
After military service in Korea, James started working with guitarist Chet Atkins, who introduced him to
Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson. Nelson suggested that James use a combination
of his nickname, "Sonny Boy," with his first name as his professional name.
"Sonny made country music more commercial," Robble said. "He wasn't trying to. He was singing what he enjoyed singing."
James was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
In the 1960s, he made several motion pictures, including "Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar," "Las Vegas Hillbillies" (with Jayne Mansfield) and "Hillbilly in a Haunted House"
(with Basil Rathbone and Lon Chaney Jr.). He then went on to produce Marie Osmond's first records, including her biggest country hit, "Paper Roses."
Osmond tweeted, "Country Music Hall of Famer, producer & lifelong friend #SonnyJames. U will be missed! #RIP."
She included a video link to James performing "Young Love" on the "Donny & Marie" show in the 1970s.
James was the first cohost of the Country Music Assn. Awards show with Bobbie Gentry in 1976.
He retired in the mid-1980s, because of vocal issues, according to Robble. He is survived by his wife, Doris.
"With immense admiration we say thanks to this dear and beloved friend to so many," read the statement released on James' website. "No words exist to express our loss and sorrow at this time."
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