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Joe Bonsall, Oak Ridge Boys tenor, dies at 76 from ALS complications

Joe Bonsall, a tenor for over five decades with the country vocal quartet The Oak Ridge Boys, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 76 due to complications from ALS.
Joe Bonsall and country music band The Oak Ridge Boys perform during the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee on June 12, 2015. Bonsall died Tuesday at the age of 76 following complications from ALS. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

“Joseph Bonsall of Hendersonville, Tenn., passed on to Glory on July 9, 2024, from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,” his family stated on his website.

Bonsall’s family highlighted his remarkable achievements, noting his 50-year membership in The Oak Ridge Boys and his inductions into the Grand Ole Opry, Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame, Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and the prestigious Country Music Hall of Fame.

This sad news comes merely six months after Bonsall announced his retirement from the band due to the progressive effects of a neuromuscular disorder. In a heartfelt post on X (formerly Twitter) dated January 3, Bonsall elaborated on his condition, explaining that walking had become impossible, leading to his retirement from touring.
Joe Bonsall, of The Oak Ridge Boys, arrives at the 2016 Country Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on November 2, 2016. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

“It has been a great 50 years, and I am thankful to all The Oak Ridge Boys band crew and staff for their constant love and support,” Bonsall wrote. “I will never forget, and for those of you who have been constantly holding me up in prayer, I thank you and ask for you to keep on praying.”

Bonsall joined The Oak Ridge Boys in 1973, adding his tenor voice to the group alongside William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, and Richard Sterban. Together, they sold more than 41 million albums over the years.
The Oak Ridge Boys arrive at the 2016 Country Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on November 2, 2016. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

The Oak Ridge Boys won five Grammy Awards and produced over 30 top-five country hits, including popular tracks like “Bobbie Sue,” “American Made,” “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” and “Elvira.”

Besides his musical career, Bonsall was also an accomplished author, writing 11 books including “On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys” and his upcoming memoir “I See Myself,” scheduled for release in November.
Joe Bonsall and The Oak Ridge Boys perform during the CMA Music Festival at LP Field in Nashville on June 8, 2013. File Photo by Terry Wyatt/UPI

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

In 2018, Bonsall and The Oak Ridge Boys paid a touching tribute to President George H.W. Bush by singing “Amazing Grace” at his funeral, fulfilling a promise made three decades earlier.
The Oak Ridge Boys sing “Amazing Grace” during a funeral service for former President George H.W. Bush at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on December 6, 2018, in Houston, Texas. File Pool photo by David J. Phillip/UPI

Recalling the encounter in 1983, Bonsall said, “The vice president comes tearing across the White House lawn. Here comes George Bush running towards us, saying, ‘I can’t make it tonight, but I’m a huge country fan, I’m a big Oak fan. Will you sing some of your songs?'”

“He started listing album cuts, so he wasn’t kidding,” Bonsall continued. “We were just blown away that the vice president knew our music.”

The Oak Ridge Boys made a special trip during their 2018 tour to perform for Bush one last time at his funeral. “We’ve been carrying a suit on our tour bus for a couple of months and wondering,” Bonsall shared. “By hook or by crook, we were going to be there for him.”

Although no funeral service is planned for Bonsall, his family has requested donations be made to The ALS Association and the Vanderbilt Medical Center ALS and Neuroscience Research Center.

On Tuesday, condolences from the country music community poured in. Blake Shelton noted, “We all lost a special person today,” and Lee Greenwood remembered Bonsall as “the high voice” of The Oak Ridge Boys. “My family sends prayers to the Bonsall Family and The Oak Ridge Boys,” Greenwood added. “We will miss you, Joe!”

Source: UPI