Joe Bonsall passes

Joe Bonsall with his banjo – photo © Jarret Gaza


The Oak Ridge Boys have announced the passing of their long time tenor singer, Joe Bonsall, from complications of ALS, known to many as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 76 years of age.

While the Oaks have never been a bluegrass act, Joe most certainly was a grasser. An avid banjo player, a passion he developed later in life, Bonsall was said to have spent many hours picking the five until his health prevented it any longer.

So strong was his fascination, that his online personna in online social media was “Ban-Joey.” He posted regularly on YouTube about all things banjo, and was always on the hunt for someone to pick with out on the road.

Joe stepped down from the band earlier this year after 50 years with the Oak Ridge Boys. He is succeeded by another bluegrass boy, Ben James, formerly of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. One imagines that this gave Joe a smile.

There will be many more detailed obituaries written today about Joe Bonsall’s legendary career with such entertainment legends, but we wanted to take just a moment to remind everyone of his deep interest in the banjo and bluegrass music.

R.I.P., Joe Bonsall.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.