Joe Bonsall, Tenor Singer for The Oak Ridge Boys, Announces Retirement From Touring

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Joe Bonsall, who has spent the past five decades as the tenor singer for Country Music Hall of Fame group The Oak Ridge Boys, has officially revealed his plans to retire from touring.

In 1973, Bonsall left his position with gospel group The Keystones to join The Oak Ridge Boys. With his signature tenor and charismatic persona, Bonsall entertained audiences on stages around the world for 50 years, alongside his Oak Ridge Boys bandmates Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban. Along the way, the group notched more than a dozen No. 1 Hot Country Songs hits, including their signature 1981 hit “Elvira,” which earned the group one of their five Grammy wins.

Bonsall noted that his decision to retire from the road is due to an ongoing health issue. For more than four years, Bonsall has battled the slow onset 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,” Bonsall said in a statement. “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.”

Bonsall’s departure from the road marks a significant lineup change for the group, as Bonsall, Allen, Golden and Sterban have helmed the group for the past 50 years, save for an eight-year timespan when the now-deceased Steve Sanders had replaced Golden.

Ben James

Bonsall’s touring replacement will be Ben James, 27, known for his previous work with Doyle Lawson’s band Quicksilver, as well as Dailey & Vincent’s band. James is also a songwriter, penning “I Hear You Calling” and “Teardrops in Tennessee” as part of his recent solo album Wonderland.

Bonsall officially introduced James to Oaks fans in his statement, saying, “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!!!”

James was introduced to The Oak Ridge Boys during a 2022 concert in Wheeling, West Virginia, where Dailey & Vincent shared the bill with The Oak Ridge Boys. Bonsall’s final show was on Dec. 17, while James’s first show with the group took place Dec. 30.

“Joe handed me the mic and said, ‘You’ve got the next verse,’ James recalled in a statement. “And I’m not sure I will ever get over that moment. ‘Elvira’ was always on repeat when I was growing up. It’s still one of those timeless songs that never grow old.”

In September, The Oak Ridge Boys announced their farewell tour, The Oak Ridge Boys American Made Farewell Tour, with a full slate of shows for 2024. The group is also slated to return to the studio with producer Dave Cobb later this month. To date, the Oak Ridge Boys have worked on four projects with Cobb,

See below for a full slate of The Oak Ridge Boys American Made Farewell Tour shows for 2024:

The Oak Ridge Boys American Made Farewell Tour:

Jan 20: The Grand 1894 Opera House – Galveston, Texas
Jan. 21: The Grand 1894 Opera House – Galveston, Texas
Feb. 2: Boot Barn Hall (Gainesville) – Gainesville, Ga.
Feb. 11: San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo – San Antonio, Texas
Feb. 29: Florida Strawberry Festival 2024 – Plant City, Fla.
March 2: Montgomery Performing Arts Centre – Montgomery, Ala.
March 15: Foxwoods Resort Casino – Ledyard, Conn.
March 16: American Music Theatre – Lancaster, Pa.
March 17: American Music Theatre – Lancaster, Pa.
March 23: Sugar Creek Casino – Hinton, Okla.
April 4: Oxford Performing Arts Center – Oxford, Ala.
April 5: City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium – Morganton, N.C.
April 6: Alabama Theatre North – Myrtle Beach, S.C.
April 10: Clay County Agricultural Fair – Green Cove Springs, Fla.
May 17: Peoples Bank Theatre – Marietta, Ohio
May 18: The Oak Ridge Boys American Made Farewell Tour – Defiance, Ohio
June 7: Hartville Kitchen – Hartville, Ohio
June 8: Hartville Kitchen – Hartville, Ohio
Sept. 15: Kansas State Fair – Hutchinson, Kansas

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