10 Questions with ... Joe Bonsall
September 30, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I joined the Oak Ridge Boys in 1973 I was 25 years old. I am now 64 and still here. I have spent my entire life it seems, as one "OF THE" and it has been a blessing. As Joseph S. Bonsall, I am also the author of 9 books including GI Joe and Lillie and From My Perspective. I live in Hendersonville, TN with wife Mary and 7 CATS! Oh and I play BANJO!
1) Hi Joe! The Oak Ridge Boys were formed many years ago, long before the group's mainstream success. Can you give us a little background info on the origins of the group and its founding members, and how did you get involved?
The group began in the mid 40's as the "Georgia Clodhoppers," a Bluegrass Gospel foursome based out of Knoxville, TN. They were allowed into the secret installation at Oak Ridge, TN on Saturdays, to entertain the thousands who were sequestered there during the development of the war-ending Atomic Bomb. They became known as "The Oak Ridge Quartet." After the war, they moved to Nashville, TN. After some personnel changes in the 50's, they changed their name to "The Oak Ridge Boys."
2) Each of the 4 Oak Ridge boys seem to have their own personality and "purpose" on stage. Can you elaborate a little bit on that, and tell us "who does what"?
Our New Jersey-born Richard Sterban sings the bass like no other. He joined the group in 1972. Nobody else HAS one of these (a bass singer like Richard). William Lee Golden is our mountain man-looking singer from Alabama who joined the group in 1965. Our Texas lead singer, Duane Allen, has been an Oak since 1966. Then there is me. I was born in Philadelphia and joined the group in 1973.
I think the different personalities and backgrounds of us 4 make for an interesting "ONE." That is the secret behind our success.
3) When first starting out with the Oak Ridge Boys, did you know there was something unusually special about the group that would keep you guys performing all the way into 2012 (and beyond)?
One could have never guessed that this group would last this long, and yet I am not surprised. This is a special bunch. Always has been. A Phen! I can say that as I am just a part. We ALL loved the Oak Ridge Boys before we joined, and that fire still burns. God has been good to us by providing the good health to keep us going. Everyone is feeling good and singing good as we look to the future.
4) Speaking of "going strong," you guys are still road warriors! How many shows do you average each year? With artists such as George Jones and Glen Campbell wrapping up their careers, do the Oak Ridge Boys have any plans of slowing down?
We do about 150 show dates per year. That doesn't count PR, recording days and all of the extra days that it takes to keep the machine rolling at a high level. Slow down? Only bad health could do that. We are always forward-thinking about things like "How can we do better?" "What's up for next year?" etc. There is NO slowing down in our immediate plans.
5) The Oak Ridge Boys travel on ONE bus (the band and crew on a second bus). In these days, that's pretty rare. Why do you guys only use one bus?
You just have to do what works. We are all comfortable together and comfortable in our own skins. So this works for us, and always has.
6) When on the bus for long trips, how do you pass the time?
Well in this day and age, it is easy. We have the DirecTV working for us- Movies, News and Sports. We have Wi-Fi for our laptops, iPhones and iPads. Plus, I have my BANJO. Oh, and I sleep a lot :)
7) Where is the furthest location that the Oak Ridge Boys have ever performed? Are your audiences in other countries similar or different to your American fans?
We don't travel overseas as much as we used to, but I think we may be looking into doing more of that again. Our historic trip to The Soviet Union in 1976 may have been the farthest. It sure seems like it was. But to the point, no matter where we sing, the music and harmony always seems to work. For the most part, people are people- everywhere!
8) It's evident that you are very passionate about America and politics- how did that political passion develop and why? What do you think about the political climate during this election season, do you have an opinion on why we are such a polarized nation?
As a group, a lot of it began for us on that aforementioned trip to Russia. It was a communist country back then, and the iron curtain was in place. There was NO freedom at all. We kissed the ground when that plane landed back at home. Our longtime friendship with President GHW Bush #41 and Barbara has also been a huge influence on us. Politics? I lean conservative because it just makes more sense to me philosophically and spiritually.
9) You have many years of performing experience to draw from. If you could pass along one piece of advice to other aspiring singers and musicians, what would that be?
Well first off, you must have talent. You must be able to "move" people with that talent. You must provide something new, different and fresh. If all of this is happening, then work hard and follow your dream.
10) Any cool new things on the Oak Ridge Boys' horizon?
We have released an unprecedented 3 albums within one year- "It's Only Natural," a Gospel-flavored album called "Back Home Again" and a new 2012 Christmas album, "Christmas Times A Comin'." We also have a huge Christmas tour that kicks off in November. Our 2013 plans include a fan cruise and LOTS of singing!
1. In addition to singing, you are a published author- a few times over! One of your books was a children's book about your cat, Molly. Can you introduce us to any of the other animals that roam around the Bonsall farm?
Molly passed a year ago. She was my STAR, but "kitty life" continues at our house. We have seven cats. One is an outdoor boy named Blackie, plus six indoor cats. We have a new kitten, Mitt, along with Crockett, Ted, Sunny, Sally Ann and Baybe'.
2. Have you seen any good movies lately?
Not really, although I just rented "Hunger Games" and the whole season of "Homeland." For the most part, I've been watching a lot of news, sports and reading a lot. I'm looking forward to new season of "Boardwalk Empire" though!
3. Who is "Elvira" about?
Dallas Frazier wrote "Elvira" in 1964. He says that he got the name from "Elvira Street" in Madison, Tennessee. So I guess it's about a STREET???? I guess so!