Joe Bonsall, tenor with country and gospel group The Oak Ridge Boys dies aged 76

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A veteran country and gospel group has said farewell to one of their long-standing members, saying he “has passed on to glory”.

Joe Bonsall, 76, was an integral part of The Oak Ridge Boys for 50 years, taking a tenor part in the group’s harmonies.

The group have been a mainstay of American music, and Joe was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and had been inducted into the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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A statement posted on the group’s website bade a moving goodbye to him, listing his musical achievements and adding: “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.”

He had suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease for four years, and his death on Tuesday is said to be due to complications arising from this.

Joe is 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 band’s statement said he is preceded in death by his parents Joseph S. Bonsall Sr. and Lillie Bonsall.

At his request, 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.

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American celebrity website TMZ reported Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young as saying Joe was the "sparkplug" for The Oak Ridge Boys and “as exciting a performer as any who ever hit a gospel or country stage” with a tenor voice that 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.”

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