Oak Ridge Boys’ Joe Bonsall Gains ‘Perspective’ in New Book
In a day and age when attention spans are short, Joe Bonsall's new book, 'From My Perspective,' is a perfect buy. The tenor singer for the Oak Ridge Boys says he was concerned at first that it covered too much ground, but he soon found a positive in that aspect of the book.
"You can pick it up any time,anywhere, turn to any section of the book, and start reading," Joe explains to The Boot. "It was only after I got a copy in hand, and read it from cover to cover that I realized that it did come together. It's the same voice throughout, it's conversational, and it is just like you're sitting in a chair having a conversation with the same guy on various subjects. That voice never changes on you."
Joe has written a few songs for the Oaks and has several books under his belt, including a children's series and a book about his parents, 'G.I. Joe and Lillie.' Over the years, he has come to love working on a book as it comes together.
'In my theory of creativity, I love the fact that you follow a vision; you have an idea and you follow it through," Joe says. "In my gun story, which is one of my favorites in the book, I had been wanting to write story about these two different guns that were on the scene on D-Day. One is an Army-issue 45 caliber sidearm that was found on Omaha Beach and used by a soldier who had lost his gun in battle. The other is an M-1 Garand, which is the gun my daddy would have used on Utah Beach.
"One night I was staying at Garth Mansion in Hannibal, Mo., an old bed and breakfast where Mark Twain was a frequent visitor. In fact, I was told I was sleeping in his bedroom! There was an old antique desk sitting there, so I got out my laptop and sat there for eight hours and wrote that story. It's is very special to me because of that and because of how I obtained those two guns."
Joe says he had a great imagination as a a youngster, when he wrote his own stories about playing second base for the Phillies and being a superstar like Elvis Presley. "I would love to have all those stories but I think my mother threw them out with the marble collection and the baseball cards," he says, adding with a laugh, "That's the only time I ever wanted to do her harm."
In the '80s, Joe and his wife, Mary, found a kitten they named Molly. Consequently he started writing a series of books about Molly's adventures. He also authored 'An Inconvenient Christmas.'
Joe says he didn't really think too much about about the essays he had written being put into a book until Kathy Harris, who has worked with the Oaks for many years, told him she thought he should consider compiling them. "She started shopping it around and Journey Press said they were interested. All of a sudden, I'm pulling out all these pieces and then, of course, I'm wanting to write new stuff. So I went crazy writing and the result is 'From My Perspective.' Then they wanted to use this short story of mine at the end and I wondered about that, but it all seems to work. Now we'll see if people will buy it!"
Joe says he has to be reminded by those around him that he has lived an interesting life, one that others might want to hear about. "Again, when I was looking at the pieces about being out on the campaign trail, Kathy had to say to me, 'How many people get to go out with a Presidential candidate when they are running for office? People want to know the behind-the-scenes stuff on that. Of course they will read what you have to say.' I guess I have lived a pretty unique life, being in a legendary music group, going out on the trail with with different presidential candidates and traveling to all kinds of places."
Joe says he is not one of those writers who has to be at his desk so many hours a day to put words to paper. "Sometimes I can go for days and weeks and not think about writing, but all of a sudden I'll get an idea, something will spur me, and I'll make a few notes. Later on, I'll think it's a pretty good idea and I'll write it. I have good friends who are disciplined writers who work at the same time every day. I write when I feel like it, maybe at home sitting on the porch or on my couch. For the most part, I write on the road, in the hotel room or on a plane. I love to do that. Maybe someday I'll have the discipline to write every day, but for now I write when I'm inspired."
Among the things that inspire Joe are his farm near the Kentucky border. He's also inspired by the people he meets, dreams he has, conversations with friends and everyday events. "You just never know, but all of a sudden there it is again, there's the creative process. It's something you hold in your hand today that wasn't there yesterday. The reason it's here today is you followed your vision, your dream, you listened ..."
Joe has some favorite writers, including Stephen King. He also likes Rubert Ludlum and Alistair McClaine. "I've always been into that high level of espionage," he explains. "I was an avid reader and learned how important it is to read as a kid. Right now I've been re-reading two books, 'Helmet for my Pillow' and 'Riding with the Old Breed.' The HBO series 'The Pacific' was based on those two books. I also just re-read one of my favorite books, 'The Guadalcanal Diary.' I also recently read a book about the life of John Basilone, the first Medal of Honor winner in the Pacific."
Joe says he doesn't take anything for granted in life. "I want people to read this book and be entertained and learn something about myself and about the group. I hope to inspire people with what I write. I hope you can read some of my essays and be a better American, a better Christian or a better person."
'From My Perspective' is now available in bookstores and online. It's also available on the Oak Ridge Boys website.