His smooth 1956 recording of Young Love came before the rise of the Nashville sound, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, James released 16 consecutive chart-topping singles.
During their travels, James met a young musician named Chet Atkins, who also would go on to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Brenda Lee, who toured with James and the duo Mickey and Sylvia, said she really got to know the Young Love singer when they starred on a country music television show, The Ozark Jubilee, in the 1950s.
James recorded his first songs for Capitol in summer 1952.
The music he released in the next three years, for the most part, was unsuccessful, but in late 1956, James recorded his breakthrough hit, the dreamy ballad Young Love.
Others, including Since I Met You, Baby and It’s Just a Matter of Time, were countrified covers of classic R&B songs that artists such as Brook Benton and Etta James previously recorded, a nod to his diverse musical tastes.
The two later met in the early 1960s when both were on Capitol Records; a photo on James’ website shows the two men sitting side by side in the recording studio.
In 1977 James, inspired by previous visits to Tennessee State Prison, recorded an album t, In Prison, In Person.
An avid fisherman, James spent much of his retirement on the lake, briefly returning to the spotlight in 2006, when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.