I first read On the Road With The Oak Ridge Boys by Joseph S. Bonsall (2015, Harvest House Books) on my Kindle a few years ago. I received the physical copy this past Christmas, along with his other writing An American Journey (the review can be found here in the archives), so I could have a copy to add to my other books of the Oaks.
This book is a more in depth commentary than An American Journey for fans that want to know what all goes on in the touring aspect of the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. I do not want to use this review as a compare/contrast of the two books, but if anyone has read any of Bonsall’s writings, similar themes occur; a grateful man who give respect to his fellow members, his crew, and throws in many entertaining and humorous tales throughout the reading.
The writing is not a historical timeline, but filled with stories from the travels in the early days of the singing group in the gospel field to breaking into the country music genre, along with pop platform after the success of “Elvira.” Bonsall writes about how the band now views the business today, along with his take on new country acts , and how he feels about being considered the godfathers of country music (not in a godfather/mafia way).
Bonsall’s book tells about how he views his fellow singing partners Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban, along with the contributions each brings to the business side in running the band. The hands on approach that these four take in the group (from publicity to scheduling and beyond) makes the group even more impressive, as opposed to today’s acts who just show up , sing, and leave, while the managers handle everything else. The fact that The Oak Ridge Boys protect their product without compromising their American, wholesome, values is one reason why they are so endeared. I could possibly say the rock band KISS is the only other band that has such a direct path of how they want the band to be run, with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley at the helm.
The reason for the way The Oak Ridge Boys’ musical direction is so defined is covered in one of the chapters , which Bonsall calls the “ORB Doctrine,” of treating others right, including the venue management, and working with them from the first booking of the show to when the busses pulls out at the end of the night. The thankfulness and professionalism of the road crew, musicians, and the singers is nice to read in the writing, where many acts ignore that there are many people behind the scenes that make a concert happen, and Bonsall lists these people by name throughout the text; the past and present members who have worked with the Oaks’ organization.
As mentioned, there are many uplifting road tales as well, such as the time the Oaks were on a tour bus listening to George Jones sing a song he just finished writing before recording (which became a huge hit-no spoilers here), how their Christmas tours started, to how they met Paul Simon and other acts that the band sang backup for live or on albums. Bonsall also takes the reader through some of his favorite albums and concerts he has seen in his lifetime, the several U.S. Presidents they have met throughout the years , how the group picks out great songs and who sings lead on them , which is in a section that is mentioned as finding “three minutes of magic.”
One part I really enjoyed was when Bonsall writes about their love for baseball and how certain ballparks have been torn down, which reminds him of several memories of places they performed that are no longer there, including Salem, Ohio’s Ponderosa Park, which was not far from where I live (it was an smaller outdoor venue that most people never heard of). Bonsall describes having water gun fights with the crowd there. It’s cool to see a small venue near my hometown mentioned in a nationally released book. I never got to see them, or any show at Ponderosa; I had tickets for an Oaks show there when owners tried to revive the venue only to close it down before they could start shows. However the venue has historical memories for those in my area who attended shows there.
My respect and admiration for the Oak Ridge Boys have been well documented here, with many books , CDs, and concert reviews. They were one of the first musical acts I followed as a child in the early 1980s, and have learned much from studying their music, and their live show. Being a fan of many types of music, along with books (I have a B.A. in English), I suggest musicians to seek out this book to read, even if you are not a fan of the group. There are many tips and information that a future artist (or anyone in business) can take away from this writing. On top of it, you may even have a new respect for the group after reading this. I have read this book twice in the past three years or so, and still find it entertaining. Bonsall’s writing is down to earth, with short chapters, along with quotes from the other members and those that work with the group. Bonsall is a wonderful writer who is a proud American, who brings an honest, gratified approach to not only the success from the past , but a content attitude to where he is in the group, along with his role in life as an entertainer, family man, and follower of God.
Bonsall states at the end of the collection that his goal, along with the other members of the Oak Ridge Boys, is to leave the audience with “something meaningful you can apply to your life.” Not only on stage, but he achieves in his words on the pages.
On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys by Joseph S. Bonsall (2015, Harvest House Books) ISBN: 978-0-7369-6419-7 (pub) 978-07369-6420-3 (eBook), can be found on amazon.com
For information on The Oak Ridge Boys, visit: http://www.oakridgeboys.com
Other books by Harvest House can be found at: http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com
Geared Towards: Any age
For Fans Of: Music, biographies, country music, The Oak Ridge Boys