Joe Bonsall, The Oak Ridge Boys country music mainstay, dead at 76

Joe Bonsall, longtime member of the legendary country music singing quartet The Oak Ridge Boys, died Tuesday from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He was 76.

Musician Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys performs on stage at Pala Casino Resort and Spa on February 17, 2017 in Pala, California.

Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

“Joe loved to sing,” read a statement on Bonsall’s official website, announcing his passing. “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.”

On January 3, 2024, Bonsall, born Joseph S. Bonsall Jr., announced his retirement from The Oak Ridge Boys ongoing Farewell Tour due to increasing health issues and immobility.

“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,” Joe shared in a statement on the social platform 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,” he continued. “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.”

Country band Oak Ridge Boys perform onstage at the Poplar Creek Music Theater, Hoffmann Estates, Illinois, August 21, 1984.

Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Bonsall joined The Oak Ridge Boys in 1973, singing tenor. The group’s five-decade-plus career produced over 30 top-five country hits, nearly half of which were chart-toppers, including “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” “Bobbie Sue,” “American Made,” and their signature song, 1981’s RIAA-certified double-platinum hit “Elvira.”

The group, also comprised of Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban, won five Grammy Awards and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Bonsall is survived by his wife, two daughters, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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