ANDY ANDREWS: Joe! I know you have the Phillies on television, so let’s jump right in and get you back to the game.
JOE BONSALL: Andy, it’s great to hear from you. Take your time. The game is on “pause.”
ANDY: Well, I know how you are about baseball — and the Phillies in particular. Here’s an easy question to begin: What might I be surprised to fi nd on your iPod?
JOE: Hmm … you know I play the banjo, so bluegrass wouldn’t surprise you. Southern Gospel … no surprise there. I have Miranda and Blake — love them — but there’s not a lot of new country on my iPod…
ANDY: That doesn’t surprise me either!
JOE: I’ve got to say, I’m tired of the “sitting in my truck in the middle of a fi eld, drinking and missin’ my woman” kind of songs.
ANDY: How long did it take you to get tired of that?
JOE: About a day and a half. (Andy laughs) I like old rock songs—not that there’re any new rock songs — and I occasionally listen to Diana Krall, Alicia Keys — that kind of good jazzy stuff.
ANDY: What about the Oak Ridge Boys? Was there ever a song you guys loved, but it just never connected with your audience?
JOE: Oh yeah. Before Garth ever cut “The Thunder Rolls,” we did a song called “Don’t Break the Code.” An eerie sound because of the minor key, it was about a guy cheating on his wife and the guy gets killed at the end. I mean, we had gunshots on it and everything. Well, we performed it once and when the song ended, the audience just stared at us. It was horrible! Here you have these happy guys doing “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue” … now we’re singing about a guy getting shot and adding sound effects! It took us fi ve or six more songs that night to get out of that hole with the audience and we never sang it again!
ANDY: Oh my gosh! I really wish I had been there for that! Have you guys ever not recorded a song only to watch it become a hit for someone else?
JOE: Absolutely! Once, in a meeting to decide on what we would record on an upcoming album, an RCA executive overruled us on several choices. He rejected “That’s My Job,” which Conway Twitty took and made a classic. He said no to “She Is His Only Need.” Wynonna made that one her fi rst massive hit. “I’m In a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” … remember that? We wanted it, the RCA genius said no, so Alabama recorded it and sold a jillion copies. Then there was a song that we thought might be a cool, danceable number. It was called “Achy Breaky Heart.” That was the fourth hit song that guy turned down IN ONE SESSION!
ANDY: I’m guessing he’s no longer at RCA.
JOE: I’m guessing he’s no longer in the music industry!
ANDY: Several months ago, Richard Sterban tore his Achilles and Gene McDonald fi lled in admirably. If you were out, who would replace you?
JOE: Actually, we almost had to make that call for last year’s Christmas tour. I was so sick for about 10 days after Thanksgiving and I sang, but that’s about all I could do. If not for God’s answered prayers, Wes Hampton would have been playing the part of Joe Bonsall on that tour!
ANDY: Does Wes like the Phillies?
JOE: It doesn’t matter. The boy can fl at sing!
ANDY: Yes, he can. But you can sing and write! When did that become such a big thing for you?
JOE: My Molly series for children really kicked it off. Four books about my cat, you know…
ANDY: Oh, I know. They were hugely successful and are still available. I actually ordered them from Amazon recently. I also liked From My Perspective, but my favorite is G.I. Joe and Lillie, the true WWII story about your mom and dad. That one should be a movie!
JOE: Thanks. You know, I promised my mom on her deathbed that people would read her story.
ANDY: Well, I know she and your dad are in heaven bragging about the book every day. They must be proud. For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you, too. We’ve known each other for a long time and I have always been grateful for the way you treated me early in my career. I’ve watched you onstage and off for 25 years and whether it was the President of the United States or the guy sweeping the arena, or me, you have treated everyone in the same gracious manner. You have been a great friend, infl uence and example to me, and I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.
JOE: I don’t know what to say…
ANDY: Brother, you don’t have to say anything. The way you live your life says it all. Go watch the game. I sure do love you, Joe.