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Country Music Hall of Famer, Oak Ridge Boys Member, Dies at 76

Joe Bonsall, a prominent member of the famous country music group the Oak Ridge Boys, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 76. His death was caused by complications related to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Bonsall, who had been associated with the Oak Ridge Boys since 1973, announced his retirement from touring with the group earlier this year due to his illness. Despite his absence, the Oak Ridge Boys continued their farewell tour.

The Oak Ridge Boys gained widespread recognition with their 1981 hit “Elvira,” which reached No. 1 on the country chart and No. 5 on the pop chart. The group followed up with another crossover hit, “Bobbie Sue,” in 1982. Over their career, they achieved 17 No. 1 country songs and placed 34 songs in the country’s top 10.

In 2015, Bonsall and his fellow group members were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Oak Ridge Boys were also honored by the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

The origins of the Oak Ridge Boys trace back to the 1940s, adopting their current name in the mid-1960s. Initially known as a gospel group, their transition to secular music was catalyzed by Johnny Cash, who helped them secure a deal with Columbia Records. Their major breakthrough came after signing with Dot/ABC Records and releasing “Y’all Come Back Saloon” in 1977, which peaked at No. 3 on the country chart. This success was followed by several No. 1 hits, including “Trying to Love Two Women” and “(I’m Settin’) Fancy Free.”

The group’s last No. 1 country hit was “No Matter How High” in 1989. Nevertheless, they remained a popular touring act and were frequently featured at country awards shows and special events.

Besides his music career, Bonsall was an accomplished author, having written 11 books. His memoir, “I See Myself,” is set to be published this November.

A statement from Bonsall’s representatives read, “Joe loved to sing. He loved to read. He loved to write. He loved to play banjo. He loved working on the farm. And he loved the Philadelphia Phillies. But Jesus and his family always came first—and we will see him again on the Promised Day.”

Bonsall is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, his daughters Jennifer and Sabrina, granddaughter Breanne, grandson Luke, two great-grandsons Chance and Grey, and his sister Nancy. He was preceded in death by his parents Joseph S. Bonsall Sr. and Lillie Bonsall.

At the late singer’s request, no funeral will be held. In place of flowers, donations can be made to the ALS Association or the Vanderbilt Medical Center ALS and Neuroscience Research Center.

Source: Variety