Jo-El Sonnier, a Grammy-awarded Louisianan musician who played country and Cajun music, passed away at the age of 77. Texas-based country music promoter Tracy Pitcox announced Sonnier’s passing on his Facebook page on Sunday, January 14. Sonnier went suddenly while on tour.
After playing for more than an hour at the Llano Country Opry in Llano, Texas, and receiving a standing ovation as he concluded his performance with his signature song, “Tear Stained Letter,” and an encore of “Jambalaya,” he passed away from cardiac arrest.
Pitcox claims that the singer-songwriter “was air flighted to Austin where he was pronounced deceased.”
Sonnier’s early musical interests were evident when he was born in 1946 in Rayne, Louisiana, to a French-speaking family. Playing the accordion since he was three years old, he started recording songs at the age of eleven. As a teenager, he independently recorded multiple songs and albums.
Initially signed to Mercury Nashville as a country performer in the 1970s, he later switched to the indie label Rounder Records when he started releasing Cajun music. Sonnier joined RCA and made a comeback to country music in the 1980s.
His first hits on the charts were “No More One More Time” from 1988 and “Tear Stained Letter,” which Richard Thompson initially recorded.