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article imageA catch up session with Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys Special

By Adrian Peel     Mar 9, 2016 in Music
An integral part of the long-standing country outfit since 1973, Joe Bonsall discusses the quartet's current activities and looks ahead to the rest of 2016.
As far as country vocal groups go, they don't come much bigger than the Oak Ridge Boys. The famed four-piece from Oak Ridge, Tennessee - inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015 - have been going strong, with numerous lineup changes, since 1947.
The current incarnation is tenor Joe Bonsall, lead singer Duane Allen (a member since 1966), Richard Sterban, who joined in 1972, on bass vocals and the group's longest serving member, baritone William Lee Golden, perhaps the most distinctive of the four with his long white hair and beard.
The Oak Ridge Boys:  Rock of Ages
The Oak Ridge Boys: 'Rock of Ages'
Webster PR
At present, the quartet are in the middle of a lengthy US tour that runs until December 16. "Well it is just mid March and already we've been on the Country Music Cruise, a ten-day Texas Swing event and a 16-day West Coast tour," notes 67- year-old Bonsall, who later revealed the group's intention to release some new music this year (their last album to include new material was 2011's It's Only Natural).
"This month we have a lot of shows in the south and northeast so we have been slammin' pretty hard... Each show is its own entity I think and whenever folks come out to hear the boys sing it is a big deal to us."
Which of the songs tend to get the best reception when sung live? Which are Joe's favourites to sing? "Well obviously 'Elvira' is the biggie," he replies, "and has been for 35 years, but we are fortunate to have had many songs that people love to hear.
"'American Made,' 'Bobbie Sue,' 'Thank God for Kids' just to name a few. My personal favourite song to sing is 'It Never Hurts to Hurt Sometimes.' It was my mother's favourite!"
Asked if there are any countries the formidable foursome have yet to visit, where they would one day like to perform, the Philadelphia-born musician states, "Funny you would ask... I have just now finished a lengthy interview in Kenya that will be heard all across Africa - let's go to Africa! I would love to tour New Zealand and Australia one day as well."
These days the boys seem as active as ever (despite the constant touring, they found time last year to put out a collection of some of their favourite hymns and gospel songs: Rock of Ages: Hymns and Gospel Favourites) and I wondered what, in Bonsall's opinion, is the secret to their longevity and ongoing popularity.
"I think we are closer then ever," he muses. "Everyone is feeling good and singing good and that is important... We love this group, we love to sing and none of us want to see the legacy end. We are popular still because we are an act that has been passed down. Kids love the Oaks because Daddy and Granddaddy loved the Oaks!"
For more information on the Oak Ridge Boys, and to check on tour dates, visit their official website.
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