Oak Ridge Boys’ Joe Bonsall Passes Away at 76 Due to ALS Complications

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Joe Bonsall, a prominent tenor vocalist for the celebrated Oak Ridge Boys, has passed away at the age of 76 due to complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Bonsall’s death was confirmed by his and the group’s representatives this Tuesday.

Bonsall, a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry, was also honored in both the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Urbana Fame. In a statement to The Nashville Tennessean earlier in January, Bonsall expressed his gratitude towards his bandmates and the band’s support staff, thanking them for their enduring love and support throughout his challenging illness.

Bonsall, originally from Philadelphia, had stepped back from touring due to his health, with musicians Ben James, alongside Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban, filling in for him. James debuted with the Oak Ridge Boys in November 2022, notably taking over a verse of their hit “Elvira” during a performance, a moment James recalls as unforgettable.

After five decades of performing, Bonsall retired six months ago following his ALS diagnosis. He reflected on his career with the Oak Ridge Boys, which included more than 10,000 performances, as an “amazing phenomenon” that transcended various eras and stories.

Joining the Oak Ridge Boys in October 1973, Bonsall was the 30th of 35 total members since the group’s inception in 1947. The group, originally a Southern gospel quartet, transitioned into a more mainstream country image in the mid-1970s under the guidance of Hollywood designer Harvey Krantz. This change spurred a series of top country hits including “Y’all Come Back Saloon” and “American Made.”

Bonsold also authored 11 books, including children’s literature and a memoir detailing his life’s journey and his battle with ALS. The memoir titled “I See Myself” is set to be released on November 13, 2024, and is currently available for pre-order.

In lieu of a funeral, Bonsall requested that donations be made to The ALS Association or the Vanderbilt Medical Center ALS and Neuroscience Research Center.

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