Saturday, July 20, 2024

Oak Ridge Boys’ Bonsall leaves behind musical legacy, dies at 76


HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – Born in Philadelphia in the late 1940s, Joe Bonsall always had a love for music.

His personal affection for gospel and his ability to sing garnered him a spot in his first group, the Keystones. In 1973, he’d leave the Philly-based Gospel group to join the Oak Ridge Boys.

“Right after he joined is when they really became nationally known and became country music stars,” Michael McCall said.

Bonsall’s unmistakable tenor voice joined a powerhouse musical group and remained there for the rest of his life.

Bonsall saw the group through its golden years, with chart-topping singles like ‘Elvira’ in 1981, ‘Bobbie Sue’ in 1982, and ‘American Made’ in 1983.

“It was a real presentation going on there with a lot of energy, and like I said, I think Joe was the most energetic,” McCall said.

During his five decades with the group, Bonsall was a well-known member of the Grand Ole Opry. The group was inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame in 2000, and just 15 years later, etched their names in history at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“It’s an incredible thing for us,” Bonsall said at the time. “It represents a lot of songs and a lot of miles and a lot of stuff together, and to have this happen to us, man it’s gigantic, it’s huge.”

Bonsall’s health declined in the years to follow. His known battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) started in 2020.

“He was a very active man, and he always said I’m going to stay active, I’m going to stay active,” McCall said of Bonsall.

The longtime singer did just that for as long as he could, up until the group’s Farewell Tour this past year.

In January, the singer shared he could no longer walk and was retiring from the tour.

The band shared the following obituary on their website on Tuesday:

“Joseph S. Bonsall (76) of Hendersonville, Tennessee passed on to Glory on July 9, 2024, from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He leaves behind his precious wife, Mary Ann, daughters Jennifer and Sabrina, granddaughter Breanne, grandson Luke, two great-grandsons, Chance and Grey, and a sister, Nancy. He is preceded in death by his parents Joseph S. Bonsall Sr. and Lillie Bonsall.

As a 50-year member of the American music group The Oak Ridge Boys, Joe was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and inducted into the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and the prestigious Country Music Hall of Fame.

Joseph is also the author of 11 books including his latest, a memoir entitled I See Myself, which releases in November. 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.

At the request of Joe, there will be no funeral. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The ALS Association or to the Vanderbilt Medical Center ALS and Neuroscience Research Center.

The family is requesting privacy.”

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