“I Don’t Think I Will“
Written by Doug Johnson
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
August 30, 1996
A young singer and future pastor earns his sole No. 1 hit.
The Road to No. 1
James Bonamy followed the typical pattern to a nineties country deal, starting off playing locally in his native Florida and eventually working at a radio show in Alabama and then singing at Opryland. A Star Search stint wasn’t fruitful, but he eventually got on the radar of Music Row, signing to Epic Records in 1995. His first single, “Dog On a Toolbox,” was a minor hit, followed by “She’s Got a Mind of Her Own,” which went top thirty. His third single went all the way to No. 1.
The No. 1
James Bonamy is the first artist featured in this series that could genuinely be called a one-hit wonder.
That’s not a reflection on his talent, but on the assembly line process on Music Row that had effectively supplanted meaningful A&R for so many new artists.
“I Don’t Think I Will” wasn’t a breakout hit for its singer. It was a carefully constructed ballad indistinguishable from the sea of such carefully constructed ballads on the radio at the time. At a time when female artists were starting to dominate the genre and you could tell which one of them was singing within four bars, James Bonamy’s record could’ve had John Michael Montgomery’s name on the label and nobody would’ve noticed the difference.
Treating him like a disposable commodity, he was dropped from the label after two albums and a few unsuccessful follow up singles, none of which gave him the chance to distinguish himself from the waves of interchangeable male acts who were clogging up the charts during this part of the decade.
The Road From No. 1
What I Live to Do, his debut album, produced an additional top thirty single with “All I Do is Love Her.” His second album, Roots and Wings, featured the top forty hit “The Swing.” Bonamy exited Epic shortly thereafter, leaving the music industry completely to work in communications and as a pastor in Texas.
Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties
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He may not have had the most distinctive style or material but I really really enjoyed his two albums and his vocals. I always was hopeful he would attempt a comeback at some point or just release an album on his own.
As a bonus I discovered him as a young teen and I had a crush on him haha of all the random country singers to crush on its so me for it to be a forgotten one hit wonder haha
James Bonamy walked so that Mark Wills could run.
Pleasant radio-filler wedding ballad with no substance.
I’m sure I heard this in the 90s but it’s so indistinguishable I have no idea if I actually did.
So what’s the grade for this one? I’ve been adding all the B+ and
A country song graded into a playlist. It’s been such a great playlist so I appreciate this feature more than you’ll ever know.
This was the second time I forgot to add the grade, despite proofreading twice! Thanks for flagging that.
My biggest peeve with this one back when it came out was that the intro sounded almost exactly like Daryle Singletary’s “I Let Her Lie,” which was still one of my most favorite songs at the time. Whenever I was recording a tape from the radio and this song came on, I would get so excited and think I was getting “I Let Her Lie,” only for me to find out it was this song instead, which would always really annoy me. For pretty much that reason alone, I always disliked this song back then, lol. Plus, I just didn’t really like Bonamy’s nearly whispering vocal style in the opening verses at the time.
However, I got to really liking it when I rediscovered it around the mid-late 2000’s, when I was revisiting a lot of mid 90’s country. Sure, it’s not exactly one of the most songs unique out there, but I still enjoy it for what it is, which is a typical mid 90’s country love ballad, especially if I’m in the mood for revisiting that era. I also now think James’ soft, whispery delivery in the verses actually helped him stand out a bit more from the dozens of other young male artists on the charts at the time.
I actually like his follow up single to this, “All I Do Is Love Her,” even more than this one, and it’s still a favorite of mine today. I love the more warm late 90’s feel of the production on that one. I also really like “She’s Got A Mind of Her Own,” which is another song you’d rarely hear a male artist singing today.
Vocally, he reminds me a bit of David Kersh, who is yet another young male newcomer who will make his debut shortly after this in 1996.
Bonamy’s song is pablum, processed country music for people who largely found country music unpalatable or difficult to digest. If the song had an ingredient list it would include “natural country flavours.”
My challenge with this generation of country stars- James Bonamy, David Kersh, Mark Wills, Rhett Akins, etc, was the utter personalityless-ness of both their music and their persons. Nashville had ruthlessly drilled down on efficient product production and these acts and songs were the results; they were perfect placeholders for safe industry sales succes, but completely uncompelling stories and sounds. Having lost a sense of connection with the artists behind the songs is a major reason why I drifted toward alt.country. What was happening with those artists beyond Nashville felt like the early nineties in Nashville all over again for me; a sense of discovery, experimentation, and growth under the country music banner.
No fault of his own, but Bonamy stands out in my mind for his blue eyes and little else.