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Legendary singer from Country Music Hall of Fame group has died

Flowers on a casket. (Unsplash)

Oak Ridge Boys singer Joe Bonsall, whose electrifying tenor added excitement to the group’s early ‘80s country hits like “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue” and “American Made,” has died. Bonsall was 76. According to a press release, cause of death was complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In January, Bonsall, a 50-year member of the Oak Ridge Boys, announced he was retiring from touring due to the neuromuscular disorder. In a statement at that time, Bonsall said, “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. The Oak Ridge Boys will finish the Farewell Tour without me, but rest assured, I am good with all of it! God’s Got It!!!”

Singer Ben James was brought in to sing Bonsall’s parts, alongside longtime members Duane Allen, William Lee Golde, and Richard Sterban.

Oak Ridge Boys, a Grammy-winning gospel-tinged country vocal group with roots all the way back to the 1940s, have been inducted to Country Music Hall of Fame, Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Bonsall’s memoir, “I See Myself,” is scheduled to publish in November. It will be his 11th book as an author. Outside of singing and the Oak Ridge Boys, Bonsall’s passions included playing banjo and watching Philadelphia Phillies baseball games.

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

Via joint statement on social media, the surviving Oak Ridge Boys said, “We ask that everyone please respect the privacy of the Bonsall family at this time.”

On X/Twitter, country star Travis Tritt wrote, “My heart is heavy this morning after hearing that my friend @oakridgeboys tenor @joebonsall has passed away at the age of 76. Joe had amazing talent and a wonderful personality and he will be missed terribly by everyone who knew him.”

In a statement, Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said, “For 50 years, Joe Bonsall was the Oak Ridge Boys’ sparkplug. His tenor voice was high and clear, and his jovial spirit always provided a jolt of energy, immediately rousing audiences to come on in and take a load off. He certainly lightened our cares every time he sang.”

It’s been a sad couple weeks for the Oak Ridge Boys family. Golden’s son, singer Rusty Golden, died on July 1 at age 65.

The Oak Ridge Boys farewell tour resumes July 31 in Ocean City, New Jersey.

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