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Joe Bonsall, The Oak Ridge Boys country tenor, dies at 76 from complications of 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
1 of 5 | 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 | License Photo

July 9 (UPI) -- Joe Bonsall, who spent more than five decades performing tenor with the country vocal quartet The Oak Ridge Boys, died Tuesday from complications of ALS at the age of 76.

"Joseph Bonsall of Hendersonville, Tenn., passed on to Glory on July 9, 2024, from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis," his family wrote in a statement on his website Tuesday, announcing his death.

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"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," his family added.

Bonsall's death on Tuesday comes six months after he announced his retirement earlier this year from The Oak Ridge Boys during their Farewell Tour.

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"Many of you know I have been battling a slow onset (over 4 years now) of a neuromuscular disorder. I am now to a point that walking is impossible so I have basically retired from the road. It has just gotten too difficult," Bonsall wrote Jan. 3, in a post on X.

"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," Bonsall added. "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, who sang with The Faith Four and The Keystone Quartet in the 1960s, joined The Oak Ridge Boys as a tenor in 1973. He and his country singing partners William Lee Golden, Duane Allen and Richard Sterban sold more than 41 million albums.

The Oak Ridge Boys won five Grammy Awards and produced more than 30 top-five country hits, including "Bobbie Sue," "American Made," "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight," and "Elvira."

Bonsall was also the author of 11 books, including On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys and his memoir I See Myself, which is scheduled for release in November.

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"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," his family said Tuesday. "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 sang "Amazing Grace" at the funeral for President George H.W. Bush, after making a promise to the former president three decades earlier.

"The vice president comes tearing across the White House lawn," Bonsall told CNN as he recounted the 1983 encounter.

"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?'" Bonsall recounted.

"He started listing album cuts, so he wasn't kidding," Bonsall said. "We were just blown away that the vice president knew our music."

While on tour in 2018, the group made a quick detour to play one last time for the former president at his funeral.

"We've been carrying a suit on our tour bus for a couple of months and wondering," Bonsall said. "By hook or by crook, we were going to be there for him."

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While no funeral 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, reaction to Bonsall's death began pouring in from country singers including Blake Shelton, who said "We all lost a special person today," and Lee Greenwood, who called Bonsall "the high voice with The Oak Ridge Boys who I toured with almost every year of my career."

"My family sends prayers to the Bonsall Family and The Oak Ridge Boys," Greenwood added. "We will miss you, Joe!

Notable deaths of 2024

Joe Engel
NASA astronaut Joe Engel, who served as a backup pilot for the Apollo 14 mission and then later commanded the space shuttle Discovery in 1985, died at the age of 91 on July 10. Photo courtesy of NASA

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