I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #213

From October 1, 2010 through to the end of September 2011, we will, each day, celebrate the life of Bill Monroe by sharing information about him and those people who are associated with his life and music career. This information will include births and deaths; recording sessions; single, LP and CD release dates; and other interesting tidbits. Richard F. Thompson is responsible for the research and compilation of this information. We invite readers to share any tidbits, photos or memories you would like us to include.

  • May 1, 1929 James Hugh Loden (aka Sonny James) was born in Hackleburg, Alabama.  *
  • May 1, 1944 Steve Arkin was born in Brooklyn, New York City. **
  • May 1, 1989 Bill Monroe was arrested and charged with assault at his Goodlettsville farm. The charges were dismissed and Monroe was exonerated.  ***

* Loden is understood to have filled in, playing fiddle on some unspecified dates.

He was known professionally as Sonny James, under which name he enjoyed a 30 year career as a country music singer and songwriter. He is best known for his 1957 hit, Young Love.

As is extremely common, he became a proficient musician and singer at an early age, having been born to parents who were amateur musicians, who encouraged their children to express themselves musically. From 1933 for about 15 years the family band had spots on several radio stations around the South.

Dubbed the Southern Gentleman because of his polite demeanor, James had a string of 16 consecutive No. 1 country music singles.

He also helped launch the solo career of Marie Osmond, producing her recording of the 1973 smash hit, Paper Roses.

** Arkin, aged just 19, worked for Bill Monroe during the summer of 1964, when he was on vacation from college. An exponent of the melodic style of banjo playing, Arkin followed Bill Keith in the Blue Grass Boys. He did not feature in any recording sessions.

Taught initially by his more famous cousin, the actor Alan Arkin, he learned the basics at the age of 13. By the age of 17 he was challenging his predecessor in the Blue Grass Boys in the Philadelphia Folk Festival banjo contest.

As a teenager he played in a variety of bands including his own, the Down State Rebels, the Hudson Tubes and the New York Ramblers.

After leaving the Blue Grass Boys, Arkin left music for several years, although the 1980s he played for several years with Northern Lights. He now lives in New York and plays old time music, one of his first loves.

Monroe said that Arkin played, “the best back-up banjo I have ever heard”.

*** Bill Monroe was charged with the assault of a woman from Alabama with whom he had a relationship. The charges were later dismissed.