Sunday, November 05, 2006

Real Rebels of Country, Pop

HALL OF FAME -- Sonny James was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the CMA Awards Show Monday night. In this 1983 photo, he appears with his band, the Southern Gentlemen. -- SJ Website

Sonny James and Clay Aiken

Real Rebels of Country, Pop

CMA HONOR: Sonny James is one of three entertainment legends inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the 40th Annual CMA Awards Show Monday, Nov. 6. Other honorees were session musician Harold Bradley and singer George Strait during ceremonies televised on ABC.

In typical SJ fashion, the main Sonny James website currently includes an opening page expressing his appreciation for this career recognition and heart-felt praise for his fellow 2006 inductees.

Here is a small video of Monday night's Hall of Fame presentation. In honor of the occasion, the Sonny James-Clay Aiken blog featured here previously is being "re-aired" with additional information and updates.

Congratulations, Sonny, on a well-deserved tribute and crowning achievement to your illustrious career!

If you are a fan of country music, someone in your family probably remembers Sonny James. If not, you are much like a young couple who moved to Nashville with classical backgrounds, teaching degrees in instrumental music, and very little experience with the country genre. However, my husband, whose heredity -- and a high school band directing job -- had sent his blood pressure spiraling, was instructed by his physician to "change your lifestyle." So we did.

We arrived in Nashville in the summer of 1973, and Mr. Caro played drums for several entertainers before joining "The Southern Gentlemen," Sonny's road band. Sonny and his wife Doris never had children, and they immediately adopted our daughter into their expanded family. In fact, they have several "nieces" and "nephews" of former band members, with whom they remain close to this day.

The Sundays the band was on the road, Sonny would have Mr. Caro locate a Church of Christ, and off the two would go in the bus. Throughout the US and Canada, many congregations were shocked to see SJ and his drummer drive up for Sunday services in the huge tour bus. On almost every occasion, Sonny was invited to lead the congregational singing, autograph Bibles, kiss babies, etc., when all he wanted to do was quietly worship.

Setting a Good Example for Youth

I treasure Sonny James for the selfless, caring, courteous, benevolent way he has lived his life. Besides his many charities, strong faith, and deeply religious lifestyle, he accepts fully the responsibility of setting a good example for young people. For that reason, a key requirement in his contracts was that there would be no alcoholic beverages served during his performance, no matter the time or the arena.

CA fans recognize some of these parallels with Clay Aiken, as evidenced by his strong religious faith, humanitarian endeavors -- UNICEF Ambassador, co-founder of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, member of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities -- as well as his unwavering determination that his product be "family friendly" and experienced by both adults and young people. By design, Clay has also placed a high priority on setting a good example for others.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features graphics from the promotion of Clay's new CD, A Thousand Different Ways, and upcoming Christmas tour, as well as his activities as a UNICEF Ambassador. Visual artists include Amazing_CA (1, 5); A Beautiful Mind (2); and Clayquebec1 (3, 4).

A Compassionate Caregiver

There are numerous examples of Sonny's charity and compassion; however, the closest one to our family came when my husband suffered a heart attack and bypass surgery at age 41. Due to complications with his leg, he was hospitalized longer than most bypass patients. Sonny was there every morning to help his drummer shave. The nurses and hospital personnel were immensely impressed and just as "fangirly" as Clay fans are now, requesting autographs on every imaginable surface.

Months later when I began teaching a young boy piano lessons, the familiar last name went right over my head. At his first recital, a holiday musicale in my studio, in walked his father, Mr. Caro's heart surgeon; and I just about fainted. Later I reminded him that he had performed a triple bypass on my husband, but he couldn't place the patient. Nothing I said jarred his memory until I mentioned the fact that Mr. C had played drums for Sonny James. Immediately, the doctor remembered.

Sonny James Album Cover

Sonny's career of many decades ended in 1983, while Clay's is just beginning. Both of these singers have long, tall, slim silhouettes to go with their beautiful voices. Both are southerners who began performing at an early age; Sonny is a native of Alabama, and Clay is from North Carolina. Good manners, love of family, and exceptional stage presence further link these true southern gentlemen.

Touring first as a youngster picking and singing with his family, the Lodens, Sonny went solo when his sisters married and his parents returned to Hackelburg to open a clothing store. His National Guard unit was among the first to be activated for the Korean War, and Sonny took an old fiddle and guitar along with him. In Korea, he honed his songwriting skills, returning two years later with a notebook full of tunes, many of which became hits as his solo career took off.

Record Consecutive #1 Singles

During the late 1960s into the 1970s, Sonny scored an incredible five-year run of consecutive #1 singles, a feat never before accomplished in country music, pop, or rock ‘n roll, and a record he held for many years. According to Billboard statistics, for 19 years (1960-1979), Sonny spent more time in the #1 position than any other artist in country music, a total of 57 weeks.

The foundation for Sonny's success was laid years before when in late 1956 he took his guitar, a simple musical arrangement, and sang what would become his signature song, "Young Love." In 1961, Sonny became the first country artist to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Monday's CMA Hall of Fame induction will cap a career that has seen countless honors, among which are Country Music's Male Artist of the Decade (1977), Male Golden Voice Award and Master Achievement Award in 2001, the Career Achievement Award, 2002.

Sonny's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Sonny James Website Extras

The Internet is loaded with SJ web pages, but at the official Sonny James site, you can listen to several of his 67 #1 hits. In the "Southern Gentlemen" link and the lead photo above, the drummer I know the best is the Texan wearing the cowboy hat.

Friends and associates always look forward to the creative holiday cards from Sonny and Doris, examples of which can be viewed under the "Extras" link.

At the time my husband played for Sonny, several entertainers, many well known for substance abuse and a whole lot of rough living, were proclaiming themselves to be "the rebels of country music." I'll never forget the day the drummer came off one of his first road trips with SJ and said, "You know what -- the REAL REBEL of COUNTRY MUSIC is Sonny James!"

As many know who have ridden the Clay Train for the past three-plus years, that assessment rings true for our entertainer, too. In another genre and a different generation, the REAL REBEL of POP MUSIC is Clay Aiken. May he also receive the high accolades he is due!


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Vox Vixen said...


I loved the video of Sonny's induction to the Hall of Fame. I noticed that he mentioned Mike Curb as one of the Southern Gentlemen. Is the Mike Curb of Curb Records? Anyway, thanks for reposting this blog. I enjoyed the first time I read it back at OFC and it was great to revisit it again.

I hope you are okay and that your test results come back okay.

BTW, I have the same problem with the dang HTML error when I post a blog. I just check "don't show me the report again", and then it lets me post without incident. The blogs look fine so I don't know what the problem is.


Anonymous said...

Him and his band were very kind to a youngster from the cornfields.