Originally created 10/07/04

Singer honors his parents' love, memories



After more than 30 years filling in the high end of The Oak Ridge Boys' distinctive four-part harmonies, Joe Bonsall has found a new creative outlet - as an author.

He has published a successful series of children's books, a book about The Oak Ridge Boys (slated for an Oct. 30 release) and a slim volume called G.I. Joe and Lillie, which he considers his finest achievement.

It's the story of his father, a World War II soldier injured during the D-Day invasion, and his mother, a Women's Army Corps medical worker who helped heal him of his physical and emotional scars. Although the book was written to honor his parents, it serves as an illustration of The Oak Ridge Boys' approach to music.

"None of us were born with a silver spoon," Mr. Bonsall said. "But we all had families that supported us and allowed us to dreams we wanted to dream. We all have this background, this all-American upbringing."

Mr. Bonsall said that during the writing of G.I. Joe, he was vigilant about keeping the story focused on his parents and minimizing his own fame. To that end, he never refers to the characters of Joe or Lillie as his parents. Instead, he lets their story unfold outside the world of recording contracts and tour buses.

"I found it easier to write that way," he said. "I found it easier to take myself out of the story. It makes this book about them, not me and certainly not The Oak Ridge Boys."

In conjunction with the book, Mr. Bonsall wrote a song, G.I. Joe and Lillie, for The Oak Ridge Boys' 2003 album of patriotic anthems, Colors.

He said that although both his mother and father died before his love letters were completed, he's secure in the knowledge that his career offered him the opportunity to give them a rare gift.

"I honored my parents in song and in the book," he said. "That's something I'm very proud of. I mean, how many people get to do something like that? When we lose people, it affects us profoundly. There is a hole because they aren't there anymore. This is a reminder of what was so special about having them here."

IN CONCERT

WHO: The Oak Ridge Boys

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.

COST: $24.50-$34.50. Call 724-2400.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.