Home #Hwoodtimes Joe Bonsall, Long Time Member of the Oak Ridge Boys, Has Passed...

Joe Bonsall, Long Time Member of the Oak Ridge Boys, Has Passed Away at Age 76, the Music Community Mourns the Loss

Joseph B. Bonsall May 18, 1948 – July 9, 2024 (Photo By Jon Mir)

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. – Joseph S. Bonsall (76) of Hendersonville, Tennessee passed on to Glory on July 9, 2024, from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He leaves behind his precious wife, Mary Ann, daughters Jennifer and Sabrina, granddaughter Breanne, grandson Luke, two great grandsons, Chance and Grey, and a sister, Nancy. He is preceded in death by his parents Joseph S. Bonsall Sr. and Lillie Bonsall.

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.

“When I look at Joe Bonsall’s life, I see a life fulfilled. The son of two military veterans, raised to become street-smart in the hood-influenced neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents taught him that he could be anything he wished to be if he worked hard, told the truth, and trusted in God. Joe could do anything he set his mind to do, but what impressed me the most was the energy, love, and compassion he put into everything he did and his unique gift to communicate those emotions and feelings into every performance, song, and book. Joe was “that” best friend that every person hopes to have in his life.” – Duane Allen / The Oak Ridge Boys

“This has been a week of sadness with the loss of my son, Rusty Golden, and now the loss of our brother and our partner of over 50 years, Joe Bonsall. Thankfully we have the memories made and the songs that we’ve sang together to get us through. It gives me comfort to know that Joe and Rusty are together again. Our prayers are with his family.” – William Lee Golden / The Oak Ridge Boys

“For many years, Joe was my best friend. We knew each other long before we both became members of The Oak Ridge Boys. He was a special person, who was loved by everyone and was a true inspiration to us all. He was also the best singing partner a person could have. For several years he bravely fought a terrible disease and was a trooper right up until the very end. There is no doubt that today, he is in a much better place – at HOME with Jesus. I will see you soon my dear friend.” – Richard Sterban / The Oak Ridge Boys

“Joe was a true hero to me. His singing is something that I have admired since I was a kid. Nobody could do it like Joe could do it. He was such an encouragement to me. I feel honored that he chose me to sing the tenor line when he decided to come off the road. I try my best for Joe and the Boys every night but only Joe can fill that spot. The legacy he leaves with us is something that is irreplaceable. I am forever thankful I got to know and love one of my all-time heroes that was nothing but good to me. I will miss Joe Bonsall. Thank you for loving everyone you met and making them feel like the most important person in your life when you spoke to them. A true gentleman.” – Ben James / The Oak Ridge Boys

“God love you, Joe Bonsall. You have been an inspiration to fans, friends, and family, especially to me for 52 years. This is a very rough day.” – Jim Halsey, Manager of The Oak Ridge Boys

When I think of the Oak Ridge Boys and their place in Country Music history, the image of Joe with his huge smile and boundless energy comes to mind so clearly. His commitment to serving others while developing Country Music into a worldwide sensation will never be forgotten and our industry has been made better because of him. Today, we lost an incomparable energy and voice in music. He will be missed greatly by all who were fortunate to know him.” – Sarah Trahern, Country Music Association CEO

“Every single one of us at the Grand Ole Opry absolutely loved Joe Bonsall. The fans in the seats marveling at his on-stage energy. —Those tuned in around the world listening to his unmatched vocals as part of his beloved Oak Ridge Boys. —And all of us backstage laughing out loud at his antics and counting our lucky stars to have been in the orbit of such a loving, talented, wonderful human being. Safe travels, buddy. You are so loved.” – Dan Rogers, Senior VP/Executive Producer of the Grand Ole Opry

“I’m saddened by the loss of my friend, Joe Bonsall. For so many years he was the high voice with The Oak Ridge Boys who I toured with almost every year of my career. Joe and I would have conversations on the road sometimes before a concert and sometimes afterward about the crowd, the music, and who we are as Americans. My family sends prayers to the Bonsall family.” – Lee Greenwood

“Musicians like Joe Bonsall are not able to be replaced because gospel harmony is quite an art form. Unlike 3-part harmony or 4-part harmony is a whole different kind of mathematics. Joe was a true pioneer and original.” – Don McLean

“I have known, worked with, and loved Joe Bonsall and the Oaks for almost 50 years. It’s so hard to say goodbye to old friends, especially a true road warrior like Joe.” – Crystal Gayle

“I’m so terribly saddened and sorry to hear of Joe’s passing. All I can say is from one tenor to another, keep singing in heaven, Joe, that voice of yours, the spirit for the Lord.” – Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave)

“Joe Bonsall helped define harmonies like no other. His contribution to The Oak Ridge Boys solidified his place in country music. Thank you for the music and memories, Joe!” – Terry McBride / McBride & The Ride

“We just lost one of the world’s greatest human beings and one of music’s greatest voices. Joe was like a brother and made me a better man. I loved him, and he loved Jesus with all of his heart. He was a sweetheart and every room brightened when he walked in. Sheila and I will miss him terribly. Rest in peace, free of pain, my dear friend.” – T. Graham Brown

“Losing a long-time friend in our business is like losing a member of your family. Joe was just that to Kelly and me. From the memories we made with him in the recording studio to working the road and doing television shows together, we will treasure them forever. We were so grateful to have him join us on our wedding day. His passing leaves a huge hole in our hearts. Our deepest sympathy and prayers go out to his family, The Oak Ridge Boys, and his fans. Until we meet again, dear friend.” – T.G. Sheppard & Kelly Lang

“Sad day for me. The Oaks were family to George and I. So sad another family member is gone.” – Nancy Jones

“Joe Bonsall and I have crossed paths many times through our careers in music and each time, we picked up right where we left off. Many of us are in our “golden” years now and these times are always particularly difficult. I am thankful for his friendship, the songs he leaves behind, and comfort in the fact that his body isn’t suffering anymore. RIP Joe Bonsall.” – John McEuen

“Joe Bonsall was a true friend who sang on several of my records. What a great talent who entertained so many people with his great voice and showmanship. I am so saddened. We will miss him so much.” – Moe Bandy

“The concerts I worked with The Oak Ridge Boys were amazing, as I heard their great blend of 4 voices – Joe had a unique sound and talent that is timeless and Universally appreciated, may God rest his soul.” – Janie Fricke

“My heart is heavy with the news that we lost Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys. He had a kindness that always made you feel welcome! My heart goes out to his family and the boys in the band, they have endured much loss in a short time. But, as we mourn the loss, we can find joy knowing that Joe is in the presence of our loving savior, Jesus Christ.” – John Berry

“A kind talented man I feel so lucky to have known. He will be so very missed. We send our love and prayers to his immediate family, and also to the millions of people around the world who loved him. Rest in Sweet Peace, Dear Friend.” – Rhonda Vincent

“The Heavenly choir gained another great tenor voice today. Joe had such an infectious energy both on and off stage. And the few times I got to be around him, he always had that wonderful smile and a good word to share. A true gentleman… He will be missed!” – Heath Wright / RICOCHET

“Losing someone like Joe Bonsall just breaks my heart. He was such a pillar in country music. They broke the mold when he was made. This is such a loss for our community. My prayers are with his family and the mighty Oak Ridge Boys during this difficult time.” – John Ford Coley

“The Oak Ridge Boys are the epitome of a class act. We worked a show a few years back in Laughlin, Nevada, and the Oaks were playing at Don Laughlin’s Casino the same week. We got a chance to meet them after the show, and I’ll never forget how kind they were to us. Joe and I talked banjos for half an hour. Such a down-to-earth, kind-hearted gentleman, and I’ll always count it a privilege that I got to meet the man and get acquainted with him. Rest easy, Mr. Joe.” – Kody Norris / The Kody Norris Show

“Joe has been a great friend through the years, and this one hits hard. Prayers for his family, The Oak Ridge Boys, the band, and his fans all over the world.” – Johnny Lee

“I am so saddened by today’s news of losing Joe. We go back to the early 80s. We were all nominated for a Grammy, and The Oaks beat us out! We didn’t get to see each other enough. Say hello to Heaven, Joe Bonsall, and prayers to his family!!!” – David Frizzell

“The Oak Ridge Boys was the first band I ever toured with. They were so good to me, and Joe was always really friendly and kind. You never forget someone who was that good to you on your first tour – they taught me a lot. Nothing but good memories.” – Lacy J. Dalton

“When I think of Joe, I see his smile that would brighten any room. He is dancing on the streets of gold today as he always did on stage here. You left this world with wonderful memories and music that will never die. Love you, Joe.” – Lulu Roman / ‘Hee Haw’

“My heart is breaking. BREAKING! Joe Bonsall’s talent was beyond compare, matched only by his kindness, compassion, humor, and love. He loved his family–which after 50 years included The Oak Ridge Boys family. He loved his friends, his fans, and my goodness, he loved his country. He was a patriot.  He performed before Presidents and Kings, but he made me feel like royalty every time I was fortunate to perform alongside him. We even shot a television pilot together where I was Joe’s sidekick. What an honor. I loved Joe since the first time I heard him sing with the Keystones. I am praying for all of us who loved this wonderful man especially his wife and children, Duane, William Lee, and Richard. No doubt there’s a new tenor in Heaven’s choir today.” – Tim Atwood

“He had a voice that lifted straight to Heaven, with a heart and faith to match. We are heartbroken today to learn of the passing of our dear friend, Oak Ridge Boys tenor Joe Bonsall. For us, Joe was one of those people we felt we’d known for a lifetime from the first time we met him. He was a friend who always welcomed us with open arms, a smile and an encouraging word. He always cheered us on and was excited about our music, for which we are forever grateful. We were blessed to get to know him even better when we recorded “He’s Getting Me Ready” with The Oaks, a gospel song that reached to the foundation of faith in who Joe was. We know he was ready for his journey to his heavenly home, and we look forward to seeing him again one day.” – Darin and Brooke Aldridge

“Words alone cannot describe what an incredible man Joe Bonsall was. He was always so kind and brought a smile to everyone he met. His passing leaves a huge void for everyone who has ever met him or heard him sing. Heaven has a new angel, and I will miss him terribly. Rest in peace, sweet Joe, until we meet again, my friend.” – Lisa Matassa

“Growing up, the Oak Ridge Boys were always playing in our home. Today, we’ve lost a true country music icon. The world will never be the same without Joe Bonsall, but we will also have those amazing songs. He was a true gift.” – Will Wesley

“Joe was one of the most gracious, warm people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I so admired his talent as a vocalist and author (11 books in all), and even his banjo playing was a joy. Our deepest condolences go out to Mary Ann and their girls. Rest well…” – Dallas Wayne

“Joe was an extraordinary entertainer. His magnificent tenor part with the Oak Ridge Boys will greatly be missed. Fly high, sir, fly high.” – Makenzie Phipps

“It hurts my heart to hear of Joe’s passing. He has been an instrumental voice in the Oak Ridge Boys for many years & had an undeniable presence in everything he touched. He will truly be missed by all music lovers! My thoughts & prayers go out to his friends and family during this time.” – Paige King Johnson

“I am truly brokenhearted to hear about the passing of Joe Bonsall. His amazing voice and stage presence were key ingredients in making the Oak Ridge Boys a cornerstone of our beloved genre. He will be missed and forever cherished. Rest in peace, legend.” – Trey Calloway

“Joe Bonsall was an icon. Country music was heavily influenced by his music and voice. As heaven has gained another sweet man, he will be sorely missed.” – Billie Jo Jones

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Obituary link (written by Joe Bonsall)

Joseph is also the author of 11 books including his latest, a memoir entitled I See Myself, which releases in November. 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.

The Hollywood Times had the opportunity to speak with Joe on November 24, 2020 about their upcoming Christmas dinner show at Opryland Hotel.  After relistening to this interview, it made me cry hearing his wonderful and uplifting voice. Joe Bonsall, you will forever be missed but never forgotten.  Judy Shields, The Hollywood Times

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

The family is requesting privacy.