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The Oak Ridge Boys singer Joe Bonsall dies

Joe Bonsall

A member of the legendary country music band The Oak Ridge Boys has died.

Joe Bonsall was 76 years old.

Bonsall died on Tuesday from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a news release said, according to WKRN.

ALS “is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord,” according to the ALS Association. There is no cure.

Symptoms emerge gradually and can vary person to person. Some people may have issues grabbing or picking up an object, while others may experience a change in their voice.

Symptoms can start in the muscles controlling speech, swallowing, hands, arms, legs or feet. Survival can be between two and five years, with some living 10 years or longer.

ALS only affects motor neurons so senses, such as touch, hearing and taste, are not affected, the ALS Association said.

Bonsall had retired from touring in January. He released a statement earlier this year which said:

“Many of you know I have been battling a slow onset (over four years now) of a neuromuscular disorder. I am now at a point where walking is impossible, so I have basically retired from the road. 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. 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. There is a young man named Ben James singing for me out there, and he needs your love and encouragement … his sound is different than mine, but he brings a ton of talent to the table! The Oak Ridge Boys will finish the Farewell Tour without me, but rest assured, I am good with all of it! God’s Got It!!!”

Bonsall was originally from Philadelphia and joined the group in 1973, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He lived in Nashville for almost 40 years, WKRN reported.

The group’s first crossover hit, “Elvira,” was released in 1981 and reached No. 1 on the country chart and No. 5 on the pop charts. The group won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. In all, The Oak Ridge Boys have five Grammys, the Hall of Fame said.

Their hit “American Made” was adapted by beer company Miller for its High Life beer advertising.

In addition to being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Bonsall was a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, WTVF reported.

Gaither Music TV’s tribute to Bonsall upon his retirement featured performances not only of “Elvira” but also hymns such as “In the Sweet By and By” as Bonsall talked about his faith.

In addition to his music career, Bonsall penned 11 books, the latest will be released in November.

He leaves behind his wife, Mary Ann, two daughters, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as his sister, WKRN reported.

There will be no funeral, and instead of flowers Bonsall’s family is asking for donations to be made to The ALS Association or the Vanderbilt Medical Center ALS and Neuroscience Research Center.

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