(Main Photo) Ben James / Facebook / (Inlay) Alison Buck / WireImage / Getty Images
On Wednesday (January 3), Joe Bonsall, the longtime tenor singer for The Oak Ridge Boys, announced his retirement from touring. Bonsall started performing with the Oaks at the age of 25, and has been with them for 50 years.
Now 75, Bonsall has been dealing with some health problems in recent years. In June 2022, he had multiple pulmonary embolisms and was hospitalized for six days.
Upon announcing his retirement on Wednesday, Bonsall shared that he has a neuromuscular disorder. The disorder has progressed to the point that he now finds it “impossible” to walk.
Hence, the reason why he’s made the decision to retire from a life on the road:
“Many of you know I have been battling a slow onset (over 4 years now) of a neuromuscular disorder,” Bonsall said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter). “I am now to a point that walking is impossible so I have basically retired from the road. It has just gotten too difficult. 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 also introduced the young singer who’s stepping in to fill his place in the Oak Ridge Boys. His name is Ben James, and he’s 27 years old.
According to Billboard, James previously worked with Dailey & Vincent and Doyle Lawson’s band Quicksilver. James writes songs too, including “I Hear You Calling” and “Teardrops in Tennessee.” Both tracks appear on his recent solo album, titled Wonderland.
The Oaks’ fans first met James during a 2022 concert in Wheeling, West Virginia when Dailey & Vincent played the same night. James got the chance to sing “Elvira” with the group that evening.
“Joe handed me the mic and said, ‘You’ve got the next verse,'” James remembers. “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.”
Prior to Bonsall’s announcement, the Oak Ridge Boys already announced that this trek would be their American Made: Farewell Tour. Although Bonsall will no longer be participating, he throws his full support behind James:
“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!!!” he said in his statement on X.
We wish Ben James the best of luck performing with the Oak Ridge Boys this year! And we’ll be keeping Joe Bonsall in our prayers.
Watch the Oak Ridge Boys sing “American Made” for Country Rebel in the video below.