The Oak Ridge Boys’ Joe Bonsall Dead of ALS Complications at 76

Joe Bonsall, Country Music Hall of Famer and longtime member of the iconic Oak Ridge Boys, has died. He was 76.

According to a press release shared with PEOPLE, the singer died on Tuesday, July 9, from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He’s survived by his wife, Mary Ann, daughters Jennifer and Sabrina, granddaughter Breanne, grandson Luke, two great-grandsons, Chance and Grey and a sister, Nancy. The family requests privacy at this time.

Per Bonsall’s request, a funeral will not be held for him, but donations can be made to The ALS Association or to the Vanderbilt Medical Center ALS and Neuroscience Research Center.

Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys.

Daniel Tommasino


The death of Bonsall (born Joseph S. Bonsall Jr.) comes months after the musician announced his retirement from touring with The Oak Ridge Boys. The tenor singer told PEOPLE that he was stepping back to prioritize his health amid a years-long battle, though he kept his exact diagnosis private at the time.

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

The musician 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.”

Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys.

Jarret Gaza


Bonsall, born and raised in Philadelphia, had been a member of The Oak Ridge Boys for over 50 years before his death. According to the band’s website, he began singing around age 4 and later “fell in love with Southern Gospel music harmony” in his mid-teens.

He joined the legendary group in 1973 before they emerged onto the country music scene, where they eventually spawned dozens of hits (including 1984’s “American Made”) and a host of accolades that landed them — including Bonsall — in the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Bonsall was also inducted into the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame back in 1994.

In addition to being a mainstay in one of country music’s leading bands, Bonsall also achieved feats outside of music, like writing 11 books, per the press release — including an upcoming memoir titled I See Myself, which will be released in November. 

The Oak Ridge Boys.

Alan Messer


Prior to his retirement, the singer-songwriter’s band announced a celebratory farewell tour to commemorate their 50th anniversary. “We are doing a farewell tour because we owe it to our fans to say goodbye,” William Lee Golden said in a press release. “They have always been there for us through the good times and the bad. I will always be thankful to every person who came out to a show, bought a T-shirt, played our music, and overall, loved us enough to spend their hard-earned money whenever they could. This tour is for you!”

Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban of The Oak Ridge Boys.

Brandon Wood


In his own statement, Bonsall told PEOPLE, “You could have never convinced that 25-year-old Joe Bonsall in 1973 that in 50 years the four of us would still be singing together and still loving every second of it.”

“Our mantra has always been LET’S SING… it still is!” he concluded. “We have had our share of challenges over all these decades, but we have always persevered as men who have each always cared about doing things right and God has blessed us for it.” 

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