Showing posts with label the oak ridge boys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the oak ridge boys. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Joe Bonsall


When my best friend Alice and I were barely in our teens, we'd go to every country music show that came to the old World War Memorial building in town. We barely cared who was playing, some old codgers like Ernest Tubb or Kitty Wells or a singer we'd only heard one song from on the radio. There wasn't much to do in our little town. We could either see a movie or go bowling. And most of the movies were awful, generally some hastily spat-out Elvis flick or something like Paint Your Wagon. The only fun we had at those movies was making fun of them. Thus, we attended a lot of what were called package shows, with a headliner and two opening acts.

On one of those shows the opening act was a southern gospel quartet called The Plainsmen. We'd, of course, never heard of them. Living in the Upper Midwest, we hadn't heard any southern gospel. They were great! High energy; a perfect blend of lead, tenor, baritone, and bass, with songs like Have a Little Talk With Jesus and other gospel tunes we might have heard one time in our lives (we were barely churchgoers, much less attendees of any service with this kind of music). 

The Oak Ridge Boys, too, began as a gospel group. And they just might have been "secular gospel" throughout their careers. They tended toward tracks with that same kind of vibe, from Elvira to Love Song. Yes, they had "smoother" hits, too, but it was that gospel arrangement that shot them to fifty years of fame. Was there ever a time when The Oak Ridge Boys didn't exist in our consciousness?

Like most every long-time country fan, I, too, saw The Oaks in person. It was right around the height of their Elvira/Bobbie Sue fame, and I saw them from a seat at a State Fair grandstand, from which they were quite tiny, but the sound was still huge. Seeing them had been on my bucket list for a while, so I grabbed my chance. My kids were little, but they went, too, along with my parents.

I think the first Oaks album I ever bought turned out to be, accidentally, a gospel album. The LP's name, simply "The Oak Ridge Boys", didn't give it away as such. It wasn't that I had anything against gospel, of course, but I'd meant to buy one of their country albums. That album was good! It had country tracks that could be construed as "sort of" gospel, like The Baptism of Jesse Taylor and Why Me, as well as Loves Me Like a Rock. 

Two Oaks hits from 1977 cemented my fandom:


Here is a Rodney Crowell song:

In case you don't know, Joe Bonsall was the tenor of the group. He's featured on this one:


Love Song demonstrates the call and response I referenced in the group's gospel style. The Oaks excelled at it. 

The thing about The Oak Ridge Boys was that while a few of their tracks did highlight one singer's vocals, that wasn't the norm. They were a group in the purest sense of the word. Yes, I talk about them in past tense, because the group will be no more. The remaining members are in bad health, and with Joe Bonsall's passing, there will be no replacing him (if that was even possible). There was a brief period when William Lee Golden left, that a replacement was found. It turned out to be a sad chapter. And in recent years, fill-ins have stepped in from time to time. It's sad to ponder that those years are gone, but they aren't really. We still have their music and we have the videos. 

I'm glad I made their musical acquaintance. 

RIP, Joe.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Fifty Years Ago Today

I was a farm kid riding Bus Number Seven to school every day. The Beatles didn't know about me, or care, but I sure knew about them. My repertoire of music up 'til then consisted of my older sisters' Elvis Presley records and Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues. Those tunes were all well and good, but kind of outdated for the hip early nineteen sixties. Elvis and Eddie were my sisters' music, not mine. I'd only grabbed hold of them because what else was there, really? Connie Francis?

The Beatles, though, they were mine. My sisters didn't get it; my parents sure didn't. I stood on the sidewalk across from Valley Elementary, delaying my walk to Wednesday catechism, and had a heart-to-heart talk with Debbie Lealos about these four British guys who were making music like nothing either of us had ever heard before. And talking about the cute one - Paul.

Cuteness was very important to a fourth-grader. Cuteness held a cache that colored our ten-year-old critique of The Beatles' music.After all, John was married. Thus, our chances of marrying John were nil. Ringo was odd-looking; George was too skinny.

Yes, it was Paul who all the girls were determined to marry - determined to become Mrs. Paul McCartney. It could happen. Paul would see us for the cool girls we were. He'd sweep us off our feet. To hell with Jane Asher.I waited and watched for Paul on that three-block walk to Sacred Heart Cathedral, but he never once whizzed by in his Aston-Martin, or whatever the English cars were called.

I never gave up, though. I spent the entirety of my hard-earned allowance money at Poplar's Music Store buying Beatles singles. The 45's were orange and yellow and I bought every single one, and I even played the B sides.

I was obsessed. And The Beatles were mine.

If you don't know this about me by now, I am a music snob. I admit it. I am a snob.I don't know what half-baked acts anyone holds up from the nineteen nineties as being timeless. Mariah Carey? C'mon.

I watched a talk show the other day, where one guy argued that The Beatles were heaven-sent, and the other four imbeciles on the show started throwing out names like Aerosmith and the Oak Ridge Boys, for God's sake. Really? What universe do these people exist in? People can be so ignorant.

Trust me, if it wasn't for The Beatles, Steven Tyler would still be howling in a garage somewhere, and the Oak Ridge Boys would be garnering a dedicated following in Baptist churches all across the south.  And I like the Oak Ridge Boys.

For anyone who is too young to know, here it is: The Beatles changed music forever.

Here's their very first Ed Sullivan appearance (and I was there - well, in front of my TV, I mean):

I'm not going to enumerate all the great Beatles songs through the years, because I don't have time to search them all out on YouTube, but trust me on this. If you're planning to be shipwrecked on a desert island somewhere and you can only grab one artist's records on your way to the boat dock, grab The Beatles.

Steven Tyler and Joe Bonsall can just wave at you from the shore.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Blast From The Past - Top Country Hits Of 1977

As with rock music, the seventies were lackluster years for country music. In previous posts regarding top country hits, I've jumped over the seventies, and with good reason.

I'm not saying everything was bad, because it wasn't. In fact, there were some very memorable country songs released during the seventies decade. It just might take me awhile to find them......

Again, I chose the year randomly. Because I like to be surprised.

So, let's see what we can dig up.

We always like to kick these things off with something good. So, here's something good:


The rule of thumb here is, we don't make fun of The Hag. So, let's just say, this is a very nice live performance, including the Strangers, featuring Bonnie Owens.

We do get a glimpse of Roy Nichols and Norm Hamlet here, which is always a treat. Aside from the Buckaroos, the Strangers were the best band in country.

And, come to think of it, the Strangers is a great name for a band!


Hey! 1977 is starting out better than I'd hoped!

Here's another great LIVE performance. This really shows the essence of Marty Robbins as an entertainer. Notice that, while he goofed around in his inimitable way, he never lost sight of the song.

Seeing this reminds me of how much I miss Marty.

While we're on a roll:


This has always been one of my favorite country songs, and it was a huge hit for the Kendalls. One tiny criticism here: Jeannie's blue shiny parachute outfit with the red boots worn on the outside of the pants is not a fashion statement I would choose to emulate. But it was 1977, after all. Maybe dressing ugly was the thing to do back then. But I don't really recall that.

Funny story (to me). My toddler used to sing along with this song on the radio. And if you don't think a two-year-old singing, "Heaven's just a sin away" is funny, I don't know what funny is.

Ah, good times.


Introduced here by Jim Ed Brown and Jerry Clower (a true pain in the ass - "whoo!"), here's a guy who never got the credit he deserved.

Here is one biography I would love to read. Johnny lived a colorful life, to say the least. And while he may have taken a wrong turn on the road of life (for example, biting off someone's ear), he was a great artist and a great songwriter.

He's another one of those, sadly, forgotten artists.


Is that The Wolfman introducing Eddie???

Wow! Blue leisure suits and shaggy hair. That reminds me of my first wedding! Just slap on a boutinniere, and you've got my wedding in a nutshell!

But I digress, due to the unfortunate flashbacks. Eddie is another one of those (sadly) forgotten artists. I really liked him. And I really like this song. For a boy from New Jersey, he knew how to find the essence of a country song.


Obviously, this is a later performance of this hit song, because it's missing something important ~ William Lee Golden and his long, flowing beard. This appearance came some time after William Lee quit the band in disgust. If I remember correctly, he quit because the other members of the group refused to sing off-key, like him. Just kidding.

But William Lee was a big part of the group, so I was glad that he came back eventually, even though I was kind of over the ORB by the time he did come back.

But let me tell you, in their day, the Oak Ridge Boys were huge! I went to see them at the State Fair back in the seventies, and I was thrilled. Ah, how times change.

My former hairdresser, who was kind of an ORB fanatic, and traveled all over the country to see them perform (?), told me that, surprisingly, Joe Bonsall was the nicest "Boy". I guess Richard Sterban (the flailing tambourine player) wasn't very nice at all. Nor was Duane Allen. That kind of surprised me. Duane "looks" nice. I guess that just goes to show you that appearances can be deceiving, when picking one's favorite Boy.

Oh, and aren't you glad "Elvira" wasn't from 1977, so I don't have to include it here? I know I am.


Speaking of HUGE, Emmylou was HUGE in the seventies.

And here she is, doing an old Chuck Berry song. One of Chuck's better songs, in my opinion. But I always was a sucker for French.

And, hey! There's RODNEY CROWELL! And here I always thought that was a woman singing harmony on that song. (No offense, Rodney.) I happen to be a huge Rodney Crowell fan, so it's good to see him in his earlier endeavors.

And, is that the guy from "My Name Is Earl" playing steel guitar??


Everybody always says that George Jones is the "king of country music", or "the voice", or the "plastic grocery bag", or the "dead-bolt lock", or the "stained coffee mug", or the "spray nozzle", or something, of country music. I must admit, I'm not a big admirer of George Jones. I mean, he's okay, but I just don't get all the hoopla. It's not that I dislike him. But, to me, there are many better singers from his time.

If you want to split hairs, I would say:

The King Of Country Music = Hank Williams
The Voice = George Strait
The Plastic Grocery Bag = Well, let's go with Kenny Chesney (ha! ha!)

But, again, I'm way off topic.

Tammy Wynette, on the other hand = The Voice (well, first runner-up to Patsy Cline).

So, I'll go with Patsy Cline, then Tammy Wynette for $200, Alex.

But, together, these two did sound good. I never tire of hearing Tammy.

So, let's just say, to be fair, the duo succeeded because of Tammy's voice and George's harmonies.

Let's close this segment out with this one:


You've gotta tip your hat to (most likely) the biggest song of 1977.

Unfortunately, I can't find a video of Waylon & Willie singing together, and the video I did find is not a real great performance.

But, much like Emmylou and the ORB, Waylon was doing well in 1977. I think he deserves a topic all his own, and I plan to do that at some point.

And, like Marty and Eddie and Johnny and Tammy, Waylon is (sadly) gone, too.

I guess 1977 wasn't so bad after all. Kind of hard to argue with artists such as these.

But, in all honesty, there were a lot of bad hit songs that I didn't include here, because I'm going with the positive tonight.

For whatever reason.

I know; that's not like me.

At all.

There you go.