Famed Member Of The Oak Ridge Boys Dead At 76

Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban of The Oak Ridge Boys attend The Country Music Hall of Fame 2015 Medallion Ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 25, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMHOF

Famed member of the country group The Oak Ridge Boys, Joe Bonsall, has died at the age of 76 — after announcing in January that he was leaving the group due to a neuromuscular disorder.

In a heartbreaking post on Tuesday on X from the hugely successful country and gospel group, the band announced that their longtime member had died from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The degenerative nervous system disease can affect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, CNN noted.

“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,” the post read.

“Joseph is also the author of 11 books including his latest, a memoir titled ‘I See Myself,’ which releases in November,” the post added. “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.”

No funeral is planned and in lieu of “flowers, donations may be made to The ALS Association or to the Vanderbilt Medical Center ALS and Neuroscience Research Center,” the post continued. “The family is requesting privacy.”

Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement, “For 50 years, Joe Bonsall was the Oak Ridge Boys’ sparkplug,” Billboard reported

“He was as exciting a performer as any who ever hit a gospel or country stage,” Young added. “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.”

In January, Bonsall shared the news he was leaving the group and would not be part of the rest of its Farewell Tour that kicked off in 2023, due to his health issues.

“Many of you know I have been battling a slow onset (over 4 years now) of a neuromuscular disorder,” he wrote. “I am now to a point that walking is impossible so I have basically retired from the road. It has just gotten too difficult.”

“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,” he added. “The @oakridgeboys will finish the Farewell Tour without me but rest assured I am good with all of it! God’s Got It!!!”

The country group was originally founded in 1943 in Tennessee, with Bonsall joining in 1973. The band is probably best known for such hits as “Elvira” and “American Made,” CNN noted.

He is survived by his wife Mary Ann, two daughters, a granddaughter, a grandson, two great grandsons, and a sister, the post on X read.

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