#857: Kathaleen by Sonny James
Peak Month: March 1958
4 weeks on Vancouver’s Red Robinson’s Teen Canteen chart
Peak Position #5
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
James Hugh Loden was born on a farm outside of Hackleburg, Alabama, in 1928. Sonny remembers from the age of three how people would gather in each others’ homes to play music amid the bronze glow of Aladdin and coal-oil lamps. He recalls “That’s when Pop decided, ‘Well, I’ll give him something that he can at least play around on.’ That’s when he cut the molasses bucket in half and used the bottom of it and put a neck on it and then reversed it. It became the top of a little banjo, but it was tuned like a mandolin- So then I graduated to a mandolin and long about that time -I must have been about three or something – I began singing.” Now that he could play the mandolin and sing James was given the nickname “Sonny boy”. In 1933, with his parents and a sister, Sonny began to appear regularly on Saturday nights on a WMSD radio in Muscle Shoals in northwestern Alabama. Soon the family was billed as Sonny Loden and the Southerners. An adopted daughter also joined the family to make them a singing group of five. In 1946 the family moved to anchor a program with radio station WPTF in Raleigh, North Carolina. James, now 18, roomed with two musicians who were in a band called Johnny and Jack’s Tennessee Mountain Boys, Chet Atkins and fiddler Paul Warren. “We’d just pick up a storm” James recalled.