For over forty years, the inspirational Country &Gospel renderings of Joe Bonsall,
Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban, have perpetually and affectionately delivered positive, wholesome, and enjoyable music while the Oak Ridge Boys served as America’s patriotic and spiritual ambassadors to the world.
In our last interview in March of 2014, Joe Bonsall, the legendary tenor of the Oak Ridge Boys was brimming with exciting news … news that included their jubilant 40th anniversary as a group together and the upcoming release of their first live album ever entitled … Boys Night Out on Cleopatra Records. ‘The Boys’ had also returned from sea on their annual Oak Ridge Boys Rally-at-Sea aboard the Celebrity Reflection, and of course their touring schedule which has been extraordinarily relentless for over the past four decades.
In my recent interview with Joe, he was still brimming with exciting news, and 2015 would prove that the group is as busy as ever! The Oak Ridge Boys continue to persevere and instill their amazing success into America’s hearts. Probably the biggest news ever in their illustrious 40+ year career is the news that the group will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame … class of 2015. The official induction will take place later this year during a medallion ceremony in Nashville. Congrats guys!
You want more? The Oak Ridge Boys recently released their critically-acclaimed CD entitled ‘Rock of Ages, Hymns and Gospel Favorites, an awe-inspiring collection of classic hymns that also features Merle Haggard and The Isaacs.
On May 1st Harvest House Publishers released Joe Bonsall’s (5) star review novel entitled …
2016 will continue where 2015 left off … On January 16th thru 23rd the Oak’s will be sailing the high seas on the Holland America Westerdam Cruise Line to perform onboard for ‘The Country Music Cruise.’
The incredible music lineup stars… Kenny Rogers, Randy Owen, lead singer of Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, Mel Tillis, Kathy Mattea, B.J. Thomas, The Bellamy Brothers, Johnny Lee, Shenandoah featuring Marty Raybon, Jamie O’ Neal, Riders In The Sky, Deborah Allen, Quebe Sisters, Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys, Host Lorianne Crook, Deborah Evans Price, Elvis Tribute Artists … and more to be announced!
The Oak Ridge Boys have sold over 41-million records. The group has scored 12 gold, three platinum, and one double platinum album—plus one double platinum single—and had more than a dozen national Number One singles and over 30 Top Ten hits.
Joe Bonsall and I discussed their upcoming induction into the ‘Country Music Hall of Fame,’ the Oak Ridge Boys latest release …‘Rock of Ages, Hymns and Gospel Favorites’, the Oak’s strong Christian faith and their recipe for success
… and much-much more!
Here’s my recent interview with singer, author, 40 year plus veteran of the Oak Ridge Boys,
Ray Shasho: How are you doing Joe, where are you at today?
Joe Bonsall: “Hello my brother! I’m at home here in Hendersonville, Tennessee.”
Ray Shasho:Well, the Oak Ridge Boys have a lot going on these days as they always do …
Joe Bonsall: “It’s just amazing to me Ray, I sometimes sit back and I just wonder how the heck we do it. At our age and to have this Hall of Fame thing, to have two new albums out, to write this new book on the group like I did, and I can’t even believe I did it, I thought for sure I wrote all there was to write about the Oak Ridge Boys eleven years ago with An American Journey but Harvest House Publishing Group came to me and said, hey man, we want a new book on the Oak Ridge Boys, and we want you to write it … can you give us something new and fresh? So it’s amazing Ray how many good things we’ve got going on.”
Ray Shasho: Joe, congratulations on the exciting news that the Oak Ridge Boys will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the Medallion Ceremony in the fall this year. What were your thoughts after the announcement was made?
Joe Bonsall: “It’s the ultimate of all honors! It’s been about a month now since they told us about it at the ceremony downtown and we’re actually officially inducted into the Hall of Fame in October. But we are inductees … I guess like the Governor elect or President elect, you’re not President yet but you’ve been elected. So we’re inductees, and I’ve got to tell you man, every once in awhile it hits you like a freight train …the Country Music Hall of Fame! It’s kind of funny, I finished that book and it just came out about three weeks ago. I totally finished my writing in January and I wrote in there, I think we’ve done enough to make it in the Hall of Fame, but I don’t know, my only hope is if it does happen we’re alive when it does, and doggone all of a sudden it’s our time. Thank God we are alive to see it happen. I keep thinking about that plaque coming out with our four faces on it together, as it has always been and will always be.”
Ray Shasho: “The Oak Ridge Boys have won countless awards over the years, I can’t think of another group that may have earned more.
Joe Bonsall: “ Maybe ‘Alabama’ has won the big-big share of awards, I’d have to put them on that same level. We’ve won all kinds of different awards. In fact, we’ve been spokesmen for the American Legion and they’re about to give us the Legion Patriot award in Baltimore on September 2nd.”
Ray Shasho: Joe, I really enjoyed the ‘Oaks’ recent gospel release … ‘Rock of Ages, Hymns and Gospel Favorites,’ and I noticed an appearance by Ban-Joey on “Power in the Blood?”
Joe Bonsall: “Yea man they let me put a banjo ride in there, thank God for patient producers. (All laughing) It took awhile to nail that thing, I have to be honest. Once I started playing it was scatterbrained all over the place, so they said, well let’s do in sections. (All laughing) I tell you what Ray, singing the old hymns were really cool, that came out of a late night phone conversation between Bill Gaither and Duane Allen. Bill said, the Oaks have recorded a hymn or two over the years but it would be great to see you guys put your touch on some of the great old hymns. And in our Oak Ridge Boys way we did that as well as some extra things on there that weren’t hymns but still fit the format. For instance, Duane Allen had this song called “Peace Within” for about ten years and we never had a project that it fit on. Duane said, this would fit that Hymn album so well, it’s up tempo and a blue grassy kind of thing and then Ben Isaac put the Isaacs Family on it and that made it a real unique cut.”
Ray Shasho:Merle Haggard also performed on the track “Sweet Jesus?”
Joe Bonsall: “That’s another cool story because Haggard wrote the song for us like two years ago and he sent it to us through Marty Stuart. Merle said, I wrote a song for the Oak Ridge Boys and asked Marty if he would give it to us. So what happened was, we were working on that live project last year … Boys Night Out and the song didn’t fit that format, but as soon as this hymns album came out, the first thing we thought was, hey, we can do the Haggard song on here, now let’s get him to sing with us on here, which we did, and it came out pretty cool.”
Ray Shasho: A track that I got a little bit emotional with was “Time Has Made A Change in Me,” such a beautiful and heartfelt song … “Time has made a change since my childhood days; Many of my loved ones have gone away, Some I never more in this life shall see, Time has made a change in me.”
Joe Bonsall: “It’s not a hymn; it’s an old-old gospel quartet song and Golden wanted to do that. You know what, when I guy comes and says, I really want to sing “Time Has Made a Change in Me” … you know what, you let him do it!”
Ray Shasho:Golden also sounded like he was a little bit choked up by the tune like I was.
Joe Bonsall: “He was and I think it was cool that they kept the version where he was a little bit choked up because I thought it made all kinds of sense to do so. You know Ray, you wake up one day and you’re 50, and then the 50’s blow by, and then all of a sudden you’re 60, and then you see the 60’s blow by, and in my three singing partners case, they’re already watching their 70’s blow by. I’ve got a granddaughter who is about to turn 20 years old. How does that even happen? I said this in the book, and this is thanking God for the health he has given us, I don’t feel any different onstage looking out my eyeball windows, looking over my microphone, than I did when I was younger. I may not jump quite as high or move quite as much, but I’m still singing good and feeling pretty much the same as I always had …until you go by a mirror.”
“We’ve been asked that age old question, when are you guys going to retire? I don’t see that happening here. We’re all progressive and forward thinking guys, we’re planning guys … we don’t even know how to slow down let alone stop this machine. So to me, it’s keep on going until God says not to keep on going … Joe ain’t coming to the bus tonight, he’s dead … that will do it. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: The Oak Ridge Boys are timeless; I’ve interviewed a lot of great artists who are still touring in their 80’s.
Joe Bonsall: “Look at Willie (Willie Nelson), he’s a great example. He’s still out there playing lots of dates, and Merle (Merle Haggard) goes out and still plays, you know the young kids are ruling the roost right now but guys like the Charlie Daniels Band, the Oak Ridge Boys, and the Bellamy Brothers … we still got big crowds to sing to and a date book filled with dates. So there’s room obviously for everybody. I remember a few years ago right before Ray Price died, I saw Ray Price sing and he sang incredibly well, he was well into his 80’s and he sounded as good as ever (Joe singing … “For the Good Times”). And look at Tony Bennett for crying out loud.”
Ray Shasho:William Golden can always launch a second career as the third frontman with ZZ Top … he’s always had an awesome beard.
Joe Bonsall: “He’s got the best beard out there … better than those Duck Dynasty guys … people are always talking about Golden’s beard and comparing his to ZZ Top and Duck Dynasty’s. He always keeps it outside the covers so it can breathe; it’s like a living and breathing entity. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: How’s young Mary Sarah doing these days? I did an interview with her back in late 2014, she’s very talented and I really enjoyed chatting with her.
Joe Bonsall: “You know, she’s doing well, and she keeps piling it on too. I’d love to see her just breakthrough one of these days because I just love the girl. I love her parents, her family, and love her and what she’s about; I think she’s a great young talent that cares … I pull for Mary Sarah, I follow her closely. Actually her daddy and I keep in pretty close touch and I’m always getting a text from him when Mary Sarah’s doing something. So I’m a big supporter.”
Ray Shasho: Talk about how the group’s strong Christian faith has helped the Oak Ridge Boys over the years, and has remarkably kept the group together for over four decades.
Joe Bonsall: “I have to give the faith thing a lot of credit for that. All the Oak Ridge Boys kind of know our place, we know where the blessings come from and who to be thankful for and thankful to, and everybody was brought up that way. And we were all brought up with a love for gospel music. I think that love for gospel is what cements us together. We don’t make our living with gospel music yet we can go in the arena anytime and be friends with everybody and sing the songs. But we’ve never been like everybody else and I think that’s another driving force in the success of the Oak Ridge Boys. We were brought up, if we treated people right, if we were honest, we honored God in our lives, if we do all these things and worked hard … God would do good things for us. That’s why the new book is dedicated to our four mothers, because we each had that kind of upbringing, and again, I think it’s one of those solidifying factors in our success and longevity. The most positive thing you could do in your life is to be a man of faith, and to believe, and to pray, and appreciate God’s blessings in your life … and that’s what’s important.”
Ray Shasho: What is the most important thing you’ve learned all these years as a performer and as a family man?
Joe Bonsall: “Integrity. In my book I have a chapter called the ‘ORB Doctrine’ and I think following it in your personal life, on the road, treating people right and trying to do things the correct way pays dividends. In my ‘What is Hard and What is Not’ chapter, to me the only thing I found hard what I did is leaving family. Singing isn’t hard, heck we sing songs, riding a bus isn’t hard; you get to travel around with a bunch of guys having fun. My father worked in a factory man… I don’t work in a factory. I sing songs for a living. The hardest part is those things you do miss being a travelling person … you miss birthdays, weddings, and precious moments with your loved ones that will never come back again. To me, that’s the only thing that’s hard about it.”
Ray Shasho: Joe, how many cats do you have now?
Joe Bonsall: “I’ve got seven right now. One of the ways you keep a marriage together is to know your place … if we had five cats, I’d be number six. (All laughing) With seven cats, I’m number eight. If we happened to get an eighth cat, I would drop to number nine. So just know your place and be happy.”
Ray Shasho:Joe, it’s always fun and a real pleasure to chat with you, I feel like your family, and congratulations on being an inductee into the ‘Country Music Hall of Fame’ Class of 2015!
Joe Bonsall: “Ray, it’s always an honor and a thrill to talk to you man, you’re a good dude!”
CD TRACK LISTING 1. In The Sweet By And By 2. Rock Of Ages 3. Sweet Jesus (The Oak Ridge Boys, Merle Haggard) 4. Angel Band 5. There Is Power In The Blood 6. In The Garden 7. Hold To Gods Unchanging Hand 8. I Love To Tell The Story 9. Life s Railway To Heaven 10. Time Has Made A Change In Me 11. Blessed Assurance 12. Father I Stretch My Hands To Thee 13. Farther Along 14. Just A Little Talk With Jesus 15. Peace Within (The Oak Ridge Boys, The Isaacs)
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…“Shasho definitely grips his readers from the very beginning. Growing up amid the DC business wasn't easy, but it was never dull--and neither is this memoir. This book is full of stories that many can relate to from their own childhood misadventures. Ultimately, it shows the inside world of what it means to be a Shasho. Also a great read for anyone that has ever felt a personal connection to music. Check it out :)” -By Drew Stiles Format: Paperback