I first met Sonny Bono in Hollywood where he was very much a presence and worked with Phil Spector. So I was amazed some years later when my partner Lee Arbuckle and I walked out of a restaurant and Sonny was waiting for his Limo. As we approached he nonchalantly looked up and said, "Hi Don, how have you been?"
I couldn't believe it, at best I was a passing acquaintance, and he remembered my name. That's what I want to talk about; people have often asked what Sonny was like, he appeared king of goofy and not especially smart...but that was wrong. Sonny had a great ability to remember faces and names of the many people he met and he was very savvy in business and with his image.
He's best known for his duets with Cher LaPiere who he found working in her mother's shop when she was in her late teens. Sonny wrote "I Got You Babe" in the basement of his home late at night, and produced and sang on the session with Cher and used the legendary "Wrecking Crew" of players to back them up using some of the tricks he learned from Philly.
Then came The Sonny and Cher TV show that ran on CBS from 1971 to 1974, at the same time Sonny was writing tunes for Cher and other artists and producing, he was everywhere. When things slowed down he opened a restaurant In Palm Springs, and that memory came in handy again, virtually everyone who dined there once would be remembered the next time they returned. But Sonny was frustrated with the red tape and bureaucracy involved with the local government, so he ran for Mayor to change things, once again he would amaze voters by remembering their names and family details.
After four years (1988 to 1992) he ran for the U.S. Senate and lost, but two years later in 1994 he ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and to the amazement of a lot of people won. Sonny was off to Washington, DC. In the House, his friendliness and memory for names made him very popular and helped pass a bill extending copyright, but it failed in the Senate, but it was reintroduced after his death and the "Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act" became law.
The day I heard that he had died (He skied into a tree in Tahoe) I felt sad, but then I chuckled thinking that Salvatore Phillip "Sonny" Bono probably would have been amused at such a distinctive exit. I've avoided details about his personal life and divorce etc.. because there was so much more to him as a man.
So this for you Sonny, I'll bet you remember everyone's name in Rock and Roll Heaven and have your own table. Here's Sonny and Cher in 1965 with their huge hit signature song, I'VE GOT YOU BABE.
A version of this post originally appeared on The Don Rocks Facebook page. For more stories like these every day, join us on Facebook and Twitter.