One of the Oak Ridge Boys Has Died

Tenor Joe Bonsall was 76
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 9, 2024 2:33 PM CDT

Joe Bonsall, Grammy award winner and celebrated tenor of the country and gospel group the Oak Ridge Boys, died Tuesday at age 76. Bonsall died from complications of the neuromuscular disorder Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, according to a statement from his family, per the AP.

  • A Philadelphia native and resident of Hendersonville, Tennessee, Bonsall left his gospel group the Keystones in 1973 to join the Oak Ridge Boys, which originally formed in the 1940s. He saw the band through its golden period in the '80s and beyond, which included its signature 1981 song, "Elvira," its 1982 hit "Bobbie Sue," and 1983's "American Made." "Elvira" marked a massive crossover moment for the group, reaching No. 1 on the country chart and No. 5 on Billboard's all-genre Hot 100.

  • In September 2023, the Oak Ridge Boys embarked on a farewell tour that was scheduled to last into 2024. But in January, Bonsall announced his retirement from touring, saying it was too difficult for him physically after a four-year battle with ALS. Ben James, who has performed with Doyle Lawson and Dailey & Vincent, was announced as his replacement.
  • "I am now at a point where walking is impossible, so I have basically retired from the road. It has just gotten too difficult," Bonsall said at the time of his retirement. "It has been a great 50 years, and I am thankful to all the Oak Ridge Boys, band, crew, and staff for the constant love and support shown to me through it all. 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."
  • His memoir, I See Myself, will be released posthumously in November. It is his 11th book, a collection that includes the four-part children's series, The Molly Books.
  • During his five decades with the Oak Ridge Boys, Bonsall was a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Bonsall is survived by his wife, Mary Ann; daughters Jennifer and Sabrina; sister Nancy; granddaughter Breanne; grandson Luke; and great grandsons, Chance and Grey.
(More obituary stories.)

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