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Sonny And Cher

Sonny & Cher proved one of the magical musical combinations of the mid-'60s and one of the better rock-influenced MOR acts of the early '70s, their wisecracking repartee providing counterpoint to a series of adoring hit duets. Salvatore "Sonny" Bono (born February 16, 1935) started out at Los Angeles-based Specialty Records as a songwriter in the late '50s, responsible for "Koko Joe" by Don & Dewey and "She Said Yeah" for Larry Williams, which was later covered by the Rolling Stones and the Righteous Brothers. Bono became a protégé of Phil Spector, managing to write a handful of successful songs, most notably "Needles and Pins" in collaboration with his protégé Jack Nitzsche, which became a success for Jackie DeShannon and a huge international hit for the Searchers. In 1964, while working sessions with Phil Spector, he met an 18-year-old would-be singer named Cherilyn Lapierre (born May 20, 1946), and the two were later married. They formed a professional duet, initially as Caesar & Cleo for Vault Records and later Reprise, but it was only after they were signed to Atlantic Records as Sonny & Cher that success came their way. The couple embarked on parallel careers, with Cher later signed to Liberty/Imperial Records as a solo act.

They were a strange duet in the sense that neither had a great voice and, indeed, their voices were so similar that Atlantic's president Ahmet Ertegun was convinced that Sonny had come close to breaking a contract by turning up singing with her on her solo hit "All I Really Want to Do" and her other Imperial hits. The latter song, however, also demonstrated their ability to spot a hit, as well as good material for themselves: they'd heard the Byrds performing the Dylan song at a club in Los Angeles and got Cher's recording out before the Byrds' own was in stores, beating the folk-rock group at its own game of popularizing Dylan songs. She subsequently hit with "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" while Sonny charted with "Laugh at Me" on Atco, but their biggest success was as a duet on Atco, with "I Got You Babe" and "The Beat Goes On."

For a time, from 1965 until 1967, they were rock & roll's hottest couple, so much so that in some conservative communities, they were considered almost morally subversive; parents locked up their kids when Sonny & Cher were passing through for a concert appearance. They were popular enough, and sufficiently well-known that the Rolling Stones impersonated them on the British television music showcase Ready Steady Go, miming to "I Got You Babe" with Brian Jones subbing for Sonny.

And then nothing. The hits stopped coming, and the couple made some daringly creative but unsuccessful commercial missteps, even a movie (Good Times, directed by William Friedkin in his debut) that was, like the Monkees' Head, too far ahead of its time for critics and all but the most advanced fans to appreciate. A further film effort, Chastity, a name shared by their daughter, also bombed, and the sudden confrontation of a $200,000 income tax debt forced the couple to continue working. Further, they were unable to record because of a dispute with Atlantic over Sonny's objections to the way that Cher's solo career was being handled.

They were playing supper clubs and Las Vegas nightclubs, opening for people like Pat Boone, when Johnny Musso, a friend of the couple's, was jumping from an executive position at Atlantic to run Decca Records' Kapp label subsidiary, and brought the duo with him. At around the same time, their stage act — which had evolved into a kind of "with it" domestic comedy routine nearly as prominent as the music, with the tall, wry-witted Cher cutting up on the seemingly dim-witted Sonny — was spotted by Fred Silverman, who was then the head of programming for CBS. They ended up with a summer replacement try-out show that did so well that Sonny & Cher were given a regular spot in the CBS lineup in January 1972 with a comedy-variety series.

The couple's recording career was initially revived by a live album cut in one night at Las Vegas, featuring new versions of their early hits as well as parts of their then-current repertory; the album went gold. The first couple of singles by Cher and Sonny & Cher failed, but then producer Snuff Garrett, who had been at Liberty when Cher was there but had never worked with her, was brought in, and the result was "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," a career-reviving number one hit. After that, "The Way of Love," "All I Ever Need Is You" (which became the theme for their TV show), "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done," "Half Breed," and "Dark Lady" kept either Cher or the couple in the Top Ten at various times through 1974. By then, however, their marriage had fallen apart, and with it, the success of their TV show.

By then, it didn't matter. They were pop culture icons, though Bono became the butt of many jokes when Cher eclipsed him with her acting career in movies like Silkwood and Mask. Bono was in the restaurant business when his outrage at the bureaucracy of the government in Palm Springs, California, caused him to declare his candidacy for mayor; he won the election, and was subsequently elected to Congress during the 1994 Republican sweep of the House of Representatives. He continued to represent his ex-wife's business interests, even as his subsequent remarriage (the name Sonny & Cher is trademarked), and was beginning to make a mark as a conservative Republican member of the California House delegation when he died in a skiing accident in 1998. Bono's second wife, Mary, succeeded him to the same House seat in a special election, and in the general election in 1998.


Sonny & Cher were an American pop music duo, actors, singers and entertainers made up of husband-and-wife team Sonny and Cher Bono in the 1960s and 1970s. The couple started their career in the mid-1960s as R&B backing singers for record producer Phil Spector.

The pair first achieved fame with two hit songs in 1965, "Baby Don't Go" and "I Got You Babe". Signing with Atco/Atlantic Records, they released three studio albums in the late 1960s, as well as the soundtrack recording for an unsuccessful movie, Good Times. In 1972, after four years of silence, the couple returned to the studio and released two other albums under the MCA/Kapp Records label.

In the 1970s, they also positioned themselves as media personalities with two top ten TV shows in the US, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Sonny & Cher Show. The couple's career as a duo ended in 1975 following their divorce. In the decade they spent together, Sonny and Cher sold over 40 million records worldwide. Performing under her first name, Cher went on to a highly successful career as a solo singer and actress, while Sonny Bono was eventually elected to Congress as a Republican U.S. Representative from California. The two performers were inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998, right after Sonny's death in a skiing accident.


Sonny Bono got a major break in 1957 when he was a delivery boy. He had just arrived at Specialty Records when owner Art Rupe fired Sam Cooke and his producer Bumps Blackwell. Bono was asked if he would like to produce records and the inexperienced Bono accepted the offer.
At Specialty Records, Bono made a star of Larry Williams, who had hits with "Bony Maronie," "Dizzy Miss Lizzie," and "Short Fat Fannie."
Sonny was ten years older than Cher, who was still in her teens when their first hit, "Baby Don't Go" reached the upper half of Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
Cher was a session singer for Phil Spector, Sonny was a record promoter for him and got her the gig after meeting her in a coffee shop.
Cher became Sonny's second wife in 1964.
In 1963 they recorded as Caesar and Cleo.
Sonny co-wrote "Needles and Pins," a minor hit for Jackie DeShannon but a huge worldwide hit for the Searchers.
Cher released a single, "I Love You Ringo," under the name Bonnie Jo Mason.
Sonny had written or co-written all the duo's hits and virtually all of Cher's solo hits on Atco Records. He did the same with the songs the duo released as singles on Kapp Records, but as Cher's solo records were being released on MCA, his presence was diminished as the marriage broke down -- her solo recordings (produced by Snuff Garrett) often exhibited a darker side, to which Sonny objected.
Sonny managed the couple's business affairs, even after their divorce, and even after he married his third wife, Mary ("Sonny and Cher" is trademarked).
Cher's real name is Cherilyn Sarkisyan. She is of Armenian background.
Bono was mayor of Palm Springs, California from 1988-1992. After his death, a statue of him was placed near a fountain at 155 South Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs in his honor.

50s, 60s Hits

Baby Dont Go
I Got You Babe
The Beat Goes On

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