updated 6/7/2004 10:22:34 AM ET 2004-06-07T14:22:34

Guests: Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, Richard Sterban



DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  The true story of G.I. Joe and Lillie. 

Joe was only 20 when he nearly died on D-Day.  But he survived and became a decorated war hero. 

Lillie was the woman who helped him piece his body back together.  Tonight, the remarkable story of two inspiring lives and one extraordinary family legacy. 

JOE BONSALL, SINGER (singing):  The distant sound of battle still echoes in his head. 

NORVILLE:  And who better to sing the praises of G.I. Joe and Lillie than Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys?  After all, it‘s the story of his mom and dad. 

Plus, Joe Junior and his band mates reminisce about their own legacy as country music veterans from their group‘s humble gospel roots...

OAK RIDGE BOYS, MUSICIANS (singing):  ... watching over me, oh, Lord.

NORVILLE:  ... to their gold plated songs of inspiration and patriotism. 

OAK RIDGE BOYS (singing):  We won‘t give up.  We won‘t give in.

NORVILLE:  Tonight for the full hour, family history with the Oak Ridge Boys. 

OAK RIDGE BOYS (singing):  Elvira.

ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.


NORVILLE:  And good evening. 

This weekend MSNBC will be devoting its programming to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day. 

And tonight we want to tell you about an inspirational and poignant personal story.  And we found it, of all places, within a legendary country music group, the Oak Ridge Boys, one of the longest running and certainly most popular country acts going.

The Oaks, as they‘re known to their fans, seamlessly blend beautiful harmony that feels just about as comfortable as a pair of faded jeans.  The person that put the “Mm-papa, mow, mow” into their Grammy winning and biggest hit, “Elvira,” has been, as the title of another of their hits goes, “Set and Fancy Free” for decades, earning more than a dozen gold and platinum albums. 

They continue to perform for packed houses, and they‘ve sold over 20 million albums. 

But to Joe Bonsall, the tenor voice of the group, this anniversary of D-Day has a very personal and emotional meaning.  His late father, Joe Senior, was part of the 90th Infantry that stormed Utah Beach 60 years ago.

Joe Senior ultimately would become a war hero in Normandy and many other battles afterward.  But that is only half the story.  Oak Ridge Boy Joe Bonsall wrote about his dad and his mom in a book entitled “G.I. Joe and Lillie: Remembering a Life of Love and Loyalty.”

And we‘re joined by Oak Ridge Boy Joe Bonsall, and we‘ll see the rest of the group in a minute. 

Nice to see you again.

BONSALL:  Deborah, thank you so very much.  It‘s an honor for all of us to be here. 

NORVILLE:  You‘re so kind.  I have to tell you the book is a wonderful story about two soldiers who met and found something they hadn‘t had at all in their life, and that‘s love.

BONSALL:  That‘s true.  My father ran away from an abusive home in Philadelphia about 18 years old and joined—joined the Army, ended up, as you said in the introduction, in the 90th Infantry in the first attack on D-Day, on that day of all days, 60 years ago.

NORVILLE:  And your mother also had left her home and—and ended up in the military, as well.

BONSALL:  Well, my mother raised in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.  She was the 11th of 11, and they had to work on the farm from the time they were—got up until the time they went to bed.

And she just got sick of the domineering father and the farm life, and she just ran off.  And at 15 years old, she ended up in Baltimore, found herself in line with a bunch of girls, learning how to work in a defense plant and ended up in Michigan, working helping make cockpit parts for B-17 bombers.

NORVILLE:  And in the book you say that she used to look at each bomber part that she would make and say a little prayer for whoever was going to be in the plane that that was going to be in, that they‘d get home safely.

BONSALL:  That‘s right.  My mother was a very patriotic lady.  Again, and we‘re seeing a lot of this during this World War II memorial celebration, the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

Our country was united back then.  We were behind our boys.

And my mother was very emotional, and that‘s what made her join the WACs.  She wanted to do more.  These guys were coming home, and they were fighting a war in the European theater and Pacific theater.  And she wanted to do more, so she joined the WACs.

And then I follow her career through the Women‘s Army Corps until she ends up in Hempstead, Long Island.  By then he‘s come home wounded and decorated.  And they meet in Hempstead, and they fall in love.

And they—I followed their life until the time they‘re both buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where—where they rest today.

NORVILLE:  It never gets easy, does it, when you talk about your parents?      

BONSALL:  Well, especially this week.  I‘ve got to tell you, this World War II memorial and the 60th anniversary of D-Day, man, it‘s like really an amazing thing to me because my father, at age 39 -- had shrapnel come out of his body his whole life.  He paid a heck of a price for this.

And he had a debilitating stroke, and it took away his speech.  It took away his whole right side.  And my mother looked after him his whole life.  She hung right in there with him.

The book actually, once my father has the stroke, becomes a story really about my mother.  The book is, in essence, I think, more about Lillie and how she persevered and what she did as a mother and how she kept the family together and how she—how she looked after him. 

She always said, “He was a hero.  I won‘t throw him away like an old shoe.”  And she never did.

NORVILLE:  But I have to tell you, reading the book I felt like this was the story of two heroes.  You know, the one hero is the obvious one, the guy who goes, does what his country is asking him to do and comes back shot up.

But as you said, your mom was truly what, you know, American motherhood is all about, you know?  You deal with the hand you‘ve been dealt, and you do it with grace and dignity and love. 

BONSALL:  Yes.  And willing to do work, willing to do whatever it took.  And I must also tell you what my mother used to tell me. 

My mother would cry when a flag went by, OK?  So again, my mother was so patriotic and always appreciated the soldiers, especially.  In fact, if she knew that young soldiers today were reading her book, her story, it would really make her happy. 

And I hope on some level God is letting her know up there that kids today even—the old veterans are reading the book, but these kids today are reading it, as well.  And I think she would find that very meaningful. 

NORVILLE:  I want to talk about your dad, the hero, and the role that he played 60 years ago tomorrow when the invasion took place on Normandy.  He was part of the 90th Infantry.  They were the group that ended up on Utah Beach, which if you were staring at Normandy in front of you would be on the far right.

BONSALL:  That‘s correct.

NORVILLE:  And what they found was pretty excruciating. 

BONSALL:  Well, he was part of the 359th Regiment.  The rest of the 90th Infantry came ashore six or seven days later, but the 359th was—of the 90th was attached to the 4th Infantry and went boom, over there in that very first wave.  He was there on D-Day. 

NORVILLE:  The first Americans to hit the land?

BONSALL:  Yes, indeed.  He was there.  And of course...

NORVILLE:  Where they landed was hugely mined. 

BONSALL:  Yes.  Nothing went as planned there, especially on Utah Beach, and even with our paratroopers and the 101st and 82nd, only half these guys landed where they were supposed to.  I think a lot of the Brits landed where they were supposed to, but our guys were everywhere. 

You know how they talk about today in Iraq, and they say, “Well, you know, everybody is making mistakes.”  And you know, war is hard.  This is not easy.  And even there on D-Day, I know that my father‘s regiment was nowhere near where they were supposed to be. 

But just like all those other brave men did then, they persevered.  They moved on.  They‘d decide, “Well, we‘re going to fight the war right here.”  And away they went, and it was just the incredible fortitude and ingenuity and spirit of the American soldier.  That‘s why—that‘s why the war was won eventually to begin with. 

NORVILLE:  When did your dad ever share with you the story of his D-Day experience?

BONSALL:  I was 11 ½ years old.  I write about it in the book quite explicitly.  And he would never talk about the war. 

Little Joey—I put it in the third person—little Joey wanted to know what was with the medals under the socks.  Mom had told me quite a bit.  She told me about Saint Love (ph) and the wounds and the Silver Star and everything else.  But he never told me anything.  That day he told me a little bit about what it was like to have hit the beach on D-Day.

NORVILLE:  What did he say?

BONSALL:  He said, “It was just nothing but confusion.  We landed and we ran.  We fired and we ran.  We had our job to do, and we did it.” 

And he—when the day was over he was doggone happy to be alive, and he looked back and saw the bodies there.  And he says, “And they pinned a Bronze Star on me.”  He said, “But I didn‘t deserve it.  Those were the guys that were the heroes,” you know?

NORVILLE:  The guys on the ground.

BONSALL:  He fought the hedgerows and fought 50 days in before he—before he went.  But the one thing my father told me pretty explicitly in that day when he made my mother sit there with us while we talked was, “You will never see that hell.  There‘ll be another war and they won‘t take my son.  They‘ll fight me to the death or they‘ll take me first, but you won‘t go.” 

NORVILLE:  He was determined you would not see that kind of... 

BONSALL:  He was determined.  It was unbelievable.  And the nightmares he had and the shrapnel that came out of his body.  He made sure that I never went. 

Had a stroke at age 39, right about—and then, you know, a year later, so I was drafted to go to Vietnam.  I stood before the draft board with my mother, and he looked down there.  And my mother said, “You‘re not taking my son.”  She stood up.  Never forget her.  She was a toughie. 

NORVILLE:  Did he have the stroke, you think, because of the injuries he‘d gotten?

BONSALL:  I know he did.  It was never completely proven, but I know.  I watched shrapnel come out of him until the time he was an old frail man in a veterans‘ home.  They were still taking that stuff out of him.

And some doctors believe that shrapnel lodged in his carotid—did I say that right? -- artery and caused permanent brain damage.  And his stroke inadvertently kept me from going to war. 

NORVILLE:  So your dad‘s promise to himself and to you was realized. 

BONSALL:  He kept it. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s an incredible story, and it‘s a story that all started with a song.  We‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back we‘re going to hear first about the song of “G.I. Joe and Lillie.”  And we‘ll be joined by the rest of the Oak Ridge Boys as they perform that song and some of your other favorites in just a moment. 

OAK RIDGE BOYS (singing):  This is America.  We won‘t give up.  We won‘t give in.  This is...



OAK RIDGE BOYS (singing):  Write your name, across my heart.  I want the world to know that I am yours forever. 


NORVILLE:  Oak Ridge Boys will be performing over 170 dates this year.  And we‘re delighted to tell you they upped to 171 to stop by our studio on this special D-Day anniversary on the program. 

Earlier we met Joe Bonsall, the tenor voice of the group.  And now he‘s joined by the rest of the Oaks: lead singer Duane Allen; baritone and voice and image of a mountain man, William Lee Golden; and the man with the incredible bass, Richard Sterban. 

Their latest C.D. is called “Colors,” and it‘s dedicated to the young men and women putting their lives on the line for the red, white and blue. 

Nice to see all of you.  Good to have you here. 

DUANE ALLEN, OAK RIDGE BOY:  Good to see you, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  We were talking with Joe a second ago about—about the book, “G.I. Joe and Lillie.”  But that actually started as a song.  And when did you all first hear the song?

ALLEN:  Actually, we were in Pennsylvania.  We had some guests over from a veterans‘ home where both G.I. Joe and Lillie, Joe‘s mom and dad, were residents.  And they came to the show.

And on the way to the show Joe wrote this song in tribute to them.  And he asked us during—actually on the way there, he said, “I‘ve written this song I‘d just like to do for my mom and dad.  Is it OK if we do it on the show?”

And we said, “Sure.”  We went over and sat down.  He and our guitar player, Donnie Carr, performed the song for his mom and dad and for the veterans that were there. 

And it completely froze the people.  It was a moment.  It was just magical.  And that was the first time actually that we ever did it in person.  And Joe did it by himself with the guitar player. 

Later on we did a song, an album called “Colors” that you were talking about in the intro, and we put it on that album.  So it‘s part of our show that we do nightly in tribute not only to Joe‘s mom and dad but to all those men and women who have served and are serving our country today. 

NORVILLE:  Well, let‘s give a listen to “G.I. Joe and Lillie” now that it‘s more than just a cappella, but the whole group.  The Oak Ridge Boys. 



NORVILLE:  Bravo.  When you sang that song that night—and you said, Duane, it was a moment—what did your mom say?  And I know your dad was incapacitated but I have feeling you got a message from your dad, too. 

BONSALL:  It was huge.  They had no idea the song was coming.  And it was a moment, as Duane said and as you alluded to, also, because what happened was we had the spotlights hit them right at that point. 

So four spotlights all hit them sitting there in their wheelchairs together, and everybody stood up as one.  The whole place, 3,500 people, whatever the American Music Theatre seats there in Lancaster.  They all stood as one.  All of those veterans stood up, started hitting them on the back.

And they were both crying, and my father had his one good arm raised up, hollering and yelling and screaming.  It went on for 10 minutes. 

We didn‘t even know what to do next, so we walked up to the mics and sang a gospel a capella song called “Farther Along We‘ll Know All About It.”  I think that‘s what we sang.  Or maybe it was “Life‘s Railway to Heaven.”

But we didn‘t even know what to do ourselves.  The whole concert just shut down. 

NORVILLE:  Richard, do those kind of moments happen often when you all are on stage?

STERBAN:  Yes, but the moment that sticks out in my mind that—where the crowd really, really went crazy and we almost didn‘t know how to react was the first time we ever performed “Elvira.” 

We had recorded the song and had not performed it in front of a live audience yet until we went out on tour.  And I believe we were in Spokane, Washington.  Anyway, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. 

And we performed it for the very first time.  And I think we encored it three or four times.  People would not let us quit singing the song.  The reaction was just huge. 

And we kind of looked at each other and said, “Wow, I think we have something special on our hands here.” 

NORVILLE:  Well, it is definitely by—of all the many hits.  I think you‘ve had like 25 records that had gone No. 1; Elvira is far and away the one. 

Who is Elvira?  Can I just ask that one?

ALLEN:  Elvira is the name of a street, a real bumpy street in Madison, Tennessee. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s not a person?

ALLEN:  The “Mm-boppa-mow-mow” jug holes (ph) in the street.  Yes, Elvira is the name of the street in East Nashville.

NORVILLE:  I just had a completely other idea of what Elvira was all about.  And it‘s just a bumpy old road.

Well, it‘s—you would give us a listen to the bumpy old road named Elvira?

ALLEN:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  It‘s been a very good street for you all, hasn‘t it?

ALLEN:  Yes.



NORVILLE:  Do you know somewhere some kid‘s first word was “Mm-poppa mow-mow?”

That was great.  We‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back we‘ll get up close and personal with the Oak Ridge Boys and hear more about the history of this group. 

As familiar as these four men are, they‘ve been together over 30 years.  They‘re not the originals.  We‘ll explain in a moment.




OAK RIDGE BOYS (singing):  It is all night, all day angels watching over me my Lord.  It is all night, all day, angels watching over me. 


NORVILLE:  That was the Oak Ridge Boys performing one of their great gospel hits.  And while they‘ve achieved fame and success and have an enormous fan base as country and pop stars, their roots are in gospel. 

The Oak Ridge Boys actually began as a pure gospel group called the Oak Ridge Quartet, ironically about the same time as the D-Day invasion.

We‘re back now with Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban, the Oak Ridge Boys.

It‘s amazing that the group has had so many members over the years.  But surely, you all are the longest lasting.  How long—Duane, how long has this—this incarnation of the Oak Ridge Boys been together?

ALLEN:  Joe was the last one to come out of this bunch.  And he came in 73.  So we have all been together 31 years. 

NORVILLE:  And the longest serving member is?

ALLEN:  William Lee has been here I guess 39, is that right? 

GOLDEN:  Sixty-five, yes. 


NORVILLE:  Since 1965.

What is it that you makes the Oak Ridge Boys continue year after year

after year?  You guys just


ALLEN:  We love what we do.  We love working with each other.  We respect each other. 

We‘ve matured enough to know how to look at the positive side of each one of our characters.  We are all strong men.  We‘re no dunces here.  We just—we do our own thing and we respect that each one of the four of us has something to contribute to the one, which is the Oak Ridge Boys.  And when we do our music, we try to keep it fresh.  We try to record new songs, even though we might not be at the top of the charts, like we once were.

We have had our run there.  We have had a really run.  We‘ve had over 49 chart records in country alone and another 35 in gospel.  So, we have had plenty of chart record action over the years.  But new music is the secret to keeping us fresh.  And we keep making new music. 

NORVILLE:  Where do you all look for your new music, because you do want to stay true to what your fan base, your core fans know and love.  But I‘m sure there‘s always pressure to try to bring a new person into the tent to love you, too. 

ALLEN:  Well, we basically send out an e-mail to 40 to 50 of the top songwriters, song publishers and song pluggers in Nashville, no, all across the country.  We just did that, in fact.  And from that, we got 11 songs that will be on a new album called “The Journey.”  It will be out in July. 

And it features some very traditional type country music.  There‘s a couple of gospel songs on there, because in our tradition gospel is a part of our tradition.  But it‘s very rootsy, very acoustic.  We went back to the basics of the earliest type of country music entertainment and music and used banjo, mandolin. 


NORVILLE:  There‘s a lot of blue grass in this, isn‘t there? 

ALLEN:  There‘s a very strong hint of blue grass, very acoustic driven. 

NORVILLE:  Is it fun, Joe? 

BONSALL:  Oh, yes. 

All of our music is fun.  We have a good time and we have such a deep well of songs to dig out of every night when we sing.  We change our shows up night after night.  There are some songs like “Elvira” that are there all the time.  But we‘re always changing stuff up.

But Duane is right, new music, new material.  Last year, when we put together the “Colors” C.D., it had a real meaning, a real purpose, some great middle America songs out of that.  And this new project, this acoustic-driven, bluegrass-flavored “Journey” album coming out soon is really cool.  Now, it is a bit of different step folks us.  But, basically, it is finding great songs and then how you present them maybe changes up a little bit.  But I think people are going to get kick out of this “Journey” thing. 

NORVILLE:  Well, and talk to me a little bit about the patriotism that you guys see when you are out on tour.  “Colors” was certainly dedicated to the men and women who are on active duty right now, but that has been kind of an undercurrent of your work for a very long time. 

GOLDEN:  Yes, well, the Oak Ridge Boys are Americans and we love America. 

It goes back to 1976, when we were all together and we all went to the Soviet ruin with Roy Clark on a cultural exchange program and we were there for three weeks in a suppressed society, actually.  And I think it was when we returned from the Soviet Union that we were all ready to get down and kiss the ground of America.  And certainly it was what kicked our pride in being American and loving our country you and loving all the people in it. 

It doesn‘t matter about politics.  We are all Americans.  And we are all together.  And that is what we love, is America.  And we love everything that America represents, the freedoms and also, you know, to have difference of opinion, whatever they might be and to be able to express those opinions.  So, we love America and we love being Americans. 

NORVILLE:  Do you sense a different kind of patriotism today post-9/11 during the Iraq war?  You really can feel an audience‘s sentiment when you are out there. 


STERBAN:  I think there really is. 

I think since September the 11th, I think we have seen a return to patriotism in our country, which I think overall is a good thing.  I think most Americans are very patriotic people and have been for a long time, but there something really happened.  It was the first time we have ever been attacked on our own soil.  And as Americans we rally around our country and each other.

And it is great to see that feeling out there this past year being out there performing these patriotic songs from “Colors.”  And I think we have seen evidence of that.  People come up to us every night and thank us for paying tribute to our country, and especially the veterans.  And it is great to see at this time the veterans of the Second World War finally getting some recognition that they deserve.  It‘s been too long.


NORVILLE:  Well, I will tell you what is really cool about “Colors.”  I didn‘t look at the play list before I stuck in the C.D. player and started listening.  And all the sudden, the last track comes up and it is “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  I thought, how cool is that?  I didn‘t have to go to a football game or some sort of public event to hear the national anthem sung in the way that only the Oak Ridge Boys can do. 

BONSALL:  We have a simple, straight-ahead version of the national anthem.  It has really gotten us a lot of great seats at a lot of great ball games over the years. 


BONSALL:  Things like the seventh game of the World Series in 1985. 

That is just one little example.  The All-Star Game. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s OK.  The Mets weren‘t playing.  I don‘t want to hear about it.

BONSALL:  No, no, they were not.


NORVILLE:  You guys, for what you do in music, which is so incredibly wonderful, you also have one of the most wide arrays of hobbies of any four men that I think we could line up. 

Let‘s just start here, Joe, and work your way.  What do you do when you are not out there making music and touring with the group?  

BONSALL:  Well, obviously, I like to write.  So I do a lot of writing. 

I write articles.  I write little commentaries.  I work on other books. 

And I‘m always writing something. 

And I also enjoy my farm at home.  We have a farm with about 400 acres.  And it takes a lot of work.  And I like to go home and work at the farm and do stuff with my wife.  And I‘m learning how to play the banjo. 

NORVILLE:  Oh, my gosh, just a simple farmer with a banjo. 

BONSALL:  Yes, yes, from Philly. 

NORVILLE:  From Philadelphia

BONSALL:  Yes, just a Philly farmer with a banjo.

NORVILLE:  Duane, what about you?

ALLEN:  Well, I have a farm, too.  I raise cows and adopt abused horses and get them healthy again, some donkeys.  And I collect cars. 

NORVILLE:  Not just any kind of cars. 

ALLEN:  Antique cars. 

NORVILLE:  You have some pretty spiffy cars.

ALLEN:  I have some pretty nice cars.  They‘re fun to play with.

I like to get in them and ride down the road and see the older people nudge each other and put their arm around each other, like, honey, we used to have one like these, you know.  And I like—I‘m a song person.  I like to find hit songs, not just for us, for a lot of people.  I like the music business.  And I co-produce our records.  And that is one of my true prides right now. 

NORVILLE:  Well, you have done that so well. 

And, William Lee, you are the most incredible artist.  You have beautiful, beautiful work that we can show the people. 

GOLDEN:  Well, it is something I have taken up in recent years.  And my wife and baby gave me some—I have always loved arts of all type.  And they gave me some painting supplies for Christmas.

So here is one of George and Barbara Bush‘s back patio at Kennebunkport that I painted, because they invited the Oak Ridge Boys up to visit them for about three days.  They usually invite us every year.  So I took some pictures there and painted some of those. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s gorgeous.

And you are also going to be singing in a couple of weeks at the president‘s 80th birthday. 


ALLEN:  When he jumps, we are going to catch him.  We are going to catch him.  We are holding the net, Mr. President. 


NORVILLE:  Right over here, sir.  Right over here.


BONSALL:  After he lands, if he is able to keep himself together, we are going to do a concert for him on the steps of the presidential library. 

NORVILLE:  I would say any 80-year-old who survives that deserves a concert.  You should sing more than one song. 

BONSALL:  We‘re doing a whole hour for him.  I think a whole bunch of people are jumping with him, not us. 

NORVILLE:  I would hope so, just to hold on to him.

And, Richard, you on a baseball team. 

STERBAN:  That is true.

I have just a little piece of the AAA baseball team that we have in Nashville called the Nashville Sounds.  And I have been an owner there for quite some time.  It‘s just a little toy that I have that I play with.  And it‘s really kind of a passion of mine, actually.  I go out there, get to know all the players and follow their careers up to the Major Leagues and just feel like I have had maybe a little part in helping them get there.  So it‘s something that I enjoy there.

NORVILLE:  That has got to be fun. 

Well, listen, it is fun to hear all about the other life of the Oak Ridge Boys.  We are going to take a short break.  When we come back, more with the group and a performance of one of the songs from their latest C.D., “Colors.”


NORVILLE:  The four Oak Ridge Boys have been together for more than three decades.  And they‘re not done yet.  A song from their latest C.D.  right after this.


NORVILLE:  We are back now with the Oak Ridge Boys, Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.  Their latest C.D. is called “Colors.”  And now they are going to perform one of the patriotic songs from it entitled, this is America. 


NORVILLE:  How long does the crowd clap after that anthem at your concerts?  It must take 15, 20 minutes to calm those people down. 

ALLEN:  Sometimes it does.  Sometimes, it takes that long to get us calmed down. 

NORVILLE:  I believe it. 

Well, listen, we are going to give you a couple minutes to calm down during the commercial.  We‘ll come back. 

More with the Oak Ridge Boys right after this. 



OAK RIDGE BOYS (singing):  Oh you are always in my heart and you are often on my mind. 


NORVILLE:  Oak Ridge Boys fans know that, “I Guess It Never Hurts to Hurt Sometimes,” yet another hit from their catalogue of songs. 

It has been so wonderful to have you all with us for the entire hour. 

BONSALL:  Deborah, it‘s an honor.  It‘s just an honor to be here. 

Thank you for having us for an hour.  This has just been wonderful.

NORVILLE:  Thank you. 

Well, it is a treat for me and for all of our viewers. 

And, Duane, you were saying during the commercial break that the song we just heard, “This Is America,” was actually written by your wife. 

ALLEN:  My wife, Norah Lee.  We were headed out of town.  We were beginning to work on the “Colors” project.  And 9/11 was fresh on our mind because we wanted to address that in our music for the “Colors” project.  And I called her on the phone and I said, baby, there‘s not been any songs written about the homeland.  And I think that should be in a song on this project.  And I gave her a few words and a few phrases. 

There‘s one phrase in there that Charlton Heston says: “I won‘t give up.  We won‘t give in.”  And that is in the chorus.  And just songs about America and words about America, we wanted to really have something there about the homeland.  So I said, when I come home, maybe we can write it.  I came home and sat down at the piano in the living room.  And she sat down at the piano and played it for me.  And it was already finished.  She did it all. 

NORVILLE:  Isn‘t that great?

ALLEN:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  I know that is big part of your tour, 170 cities.  You guys could rest at this stage of the game, couldn‘t you? 

BONSALL:  Yes, but, man, it‘s too much fan.  Our hands are still in the cookie jar. 


NORVILLE:  And it‘s called the Red, White, and BluBlocker.

BONSALL:  BluBlocker Sunglasses is our tour sponsor and we have brought you a pair of Oak Ridge boys magnums. 

NORVILLE:  Oh, cool.  So how do these—you come from behind?

BONSALL:  Yes, and just snap them.  There‘s a magnet in there, but the magnet doesn‘t affect your brain in any adverse way. 


NORVILLE:  It does affect the hair, though.  I‘m not so sure about...



BONSALL:  Put it under the hair. 

NORVILLE:  Put it under the hair.  There you go.

BONSALL:  And then they can just hang down, see, when you‘re not

wearing them.  They‘re Oak Ridge Boy


NORVILLE:  Oh, now, see, this works. 


So the “Red, White and BluBlocker” Tour. 

BONSALL:  Yes, BluBlocker Sunglasses.


BONSALL:  See, we‘ve come in our own commemorative little Oak Ridge Boy box.


So you have got an album coming out this next year.

BONSALL:  “The Journey.”

NORVILLE:  You have got the tour that continues.  And I know you have got a special journey of your own come the beginning of next year, bringing it full circle back to Normandy. 

BONSALL:  Yes, indeed.

I‘m planning in January, hopefully, when we get a little down time in January, I‘m going over to Normandy and I‘m going to visit and retrace my father‘s steps.  Some friends of mine with the 90th Infantry Division and my friend Eddie Polk (ph) down in New Orleans, who took me to the D-Day Museum a few weeks ago, we have retraced his steps from the time he hit the beach until the time he was hit near Saint Lo. 

So I‘m going to go over and retrace the steps.


NORVILLE:  First time you‘ve been? 

BONSALL:  Yes, I have never been there before.  I‘m...

NORVILLE:  It‘s pretty powerful stuff. 

BONSALL:  I‘m anticipating it. 

NORVILLE:  And, finally, the last word.  Duane, I‘ll let you have it.

There‘s so much patriotism in your music and in your show.  What would you want Americans to take from that and apply to their lives? 

ALLEN:  Well, how fortunate we are that we have the freedoms to do what we are doing with you today.  This has been a wonderful hour for us.  We have celebrated our music, talked about our families.  We‘ve talked about our hobbies.  We‘ve talked about all of the freedoms that we have to worship, to sing, to go out to vote.  The greatest form of protest in the world is to go vote.  We encourage everybody to do that, because, if you don‘t like something, you can vote. 


We encourage people to be thankful for what we have and the many blessings we have in this country. 

NORVILLE:  Well, we thank you for being her, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Red, White, and BluBlocker tour.  The album coming out is called “Journey.”  And the one at the record store right now is called “Colors.”

Thank you so much.  Continued success to all of you.


NORVILLE:  We‘ll be back right after this. 


NORVILLE:  This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of D-Day, perhaps the defining moment of World War II. 

And our “American Moment” is the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington.  More than 100,000 people were there.  And it was the largest reunion of World War II veterans since the war ended in 1945.  More than 400,000 Americans died in the war and 16 million served.  But time is taking its toll.  Only a quarter of them are left.  And 1,100 World War II veterans are dying each day.

So now we remember with a memorial that honors the men and women who gave America its greatest military victory and who fought and died preserving our way of life. 


BOB DOLE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war.  Rather, it is a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys, that inspires Americans in every generation to lay down their lives for people they will never met, for ideals that make life itself worth living. 


NORVILLE:  So this week‘s “American Moment” pays tribute to the millions of men and women who fought and served during World War II.  Our nation will always remember the sacrifices they made. 

This is a very special weekend here at MSNBC, as we report on the 60th anniversary of D-Day.  It has been called the most complicated military event ever pulled off, as the United States and its allies invaded Nazi-occupied Europe.  It was a major turning point that led to the defeat of the Nazis.  MSNBC is dedicating this weekend to “D-Day At 60: A Celebration Of Heroes,” including a very special look back at the invasion of Normandy from a unique perspective:  What if NBC News was there covering this 60 years ago, but with the technology we have today?  That will air tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern and again on Sunday at 4:00 Eastern.

That‘s our program for this evening.  Thanks so much for watching. 

I‘m Deborah Norville.  Have a great weekend.  We‘ll see you on Monday. 


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