Oak Ridge Boys serenade former President Bush in hospital
December 29th, 2012
07:25 PM ET
1 year ago

Oak Ridge Boys serenade former President Bush in hospital

(CNN) - The Oak Ridge Boys, the gospel-turned-country crooners who had their heyday in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, gave the hospitalized former President George H.W. Bush "a real shot in the arm" on Friday.

"That is great," Bush can be heard saying in a recording provided by the group after their rendition of "Amazing Grace."

Former first lady Barbara Bush called the band Friday to request a special performance, the group said, which they gladly provided by phone from their offices. The former president, 88, has been hospitalized in Houston for over a month, initially for bronchitis and a lingering cough. He was moved out of an intensive care ward to a standard patient room on Saturday, his spokesman said, after receiving the upgraded attention to treat a fever.

Band member Joe Bonsall said, "We asked what song he would like to hear and he said 'Elvira,' so we blasted some ‘oom pop a mau mau’s’ in the direction of Houston, Texas."

Bush's spokesman said Friday that "his exchanges with doctors and nurses now include singing," but did not specify what songs.

The Oak Ridge Boys, who found their political tune first in Bush, have said they became friends with him 30 years ago when he was Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

"We don't take our politics to the stage, but back in ‘82 when George Bush was vice president, we were doing a barbecue on the congressional front lawn, where they bring all the parties in and they bring their families in, and we were doing a sound check that afternoon, and here came a long lanky guy with the plastic bag full of goodies over his shoulder," member Duane Allen said in an interview with Politico.

"And he started literally running towards the stage, and as he got closer we realized - this is Vice President George Bush. We had heard that he liked our music, but he came up on stage, gave us all vice presidential T-shirts, and he started requesting songs."

The friendship has continued, they said in the interview.

"Every year we go up to Kennebunkport (Maine) - or at least every other year - with our wives and families and spend a couple of days with the Bushes at what is probably the greatest bed and breakfast in the history of the world," Bonsall said.

Member William Lee Golden said he considers Bush and his family "some of our most treasured friends."

Bonsall also remembers being onstage with Bush when he received the GOP presidential nomination in 1988.

They refer to him as "our president" and said they were receiving reports on Bush's health leading up to their song on Friday.

"Words cannot properly express how much The Oaks' special performance meant to the president and the Bush family," Bush's office said in a statement. "This friendship goes back many years, and what happened yesterday gave the President a real shot in the arm as he, thankfully, continues to improve. The Bushes continue to feel so blessed to have so many friends like The Oaks, and wish to thank one and all for their prayers and good wishes."

After their performance, "we all smiled and went back home," Bonsall said in a statement. "We had just sung a few songs for our president. We have been doing so since 1982. Get well soon, sir. We love you. America loves you. The world loves you!"

The band also performed at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and expressed their support for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

– CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report


Filed under: George H.W. Bush • Texas
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Name lynn

    that was kool the oak ridge boys stop by to bring old bush a smile maybe he sing a song with them

    December 29, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  2. Al

    Saw the Oak Ridge Boy's get inducted into the hall of fame in Nashville. If anyone can make a Texan feel better it is they/

    December 29, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  3. Mark

    Good of the Oaks doing this for Pres. Bush. I never voted for the man but wish him all the best with his health.

    December 29, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  4. Robert

    Get well soon, President Bush! We love you!

    December 29, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  5. thomas haeding

    Mr Presdent please get well IM a democrate but went to the other side to vote fvor you. you served us well now its time to support you again happy new year. God Bless you n yours

    December 29, 2012 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  6. Your Panties in Texas

    Those Old Guys are Great. They live in the wrong place. They should come live in Texas.

    December 29, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  7. dc

    A classy bunch of guys!

    December 29, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  8. Sue Hunsinger

    I LOVE the Oak Ridge Boys, and have for almost 40 years. They are true American's in every sense of the word. I know how much they love President Bush, and how much he cares and appreciates them. This was a wonderful and thoughtful jesture from their hearts, and if it had even just a little bit to do with cheering him up, then I know they must feel honored and thankful.

    December 30, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  9. Jay

    That is very nice, glad Mrs. Bush called them, great idea, that would pep anyone up! Get well Mr, Bush, hHappy New Year!

    December 30, 2012 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  10. Disgusted

    I have always admired the Oak Ridege Boys. They are very decent men. Good luck, Mr. President.

    December 30, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  11. Randy

    I have a wonderful Oak Ridge Boys story that reflects on the character of the group members. A year ago, after my mother had been diagnosed with early stage dementia, I took her and our children to see the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas concert in Chattanooga, TN. On a whim, I sent an email to a Joe Bonsall at an address I located. In the email I explained my mother's health situation, told him she had been impressed by his book "GI Joe and Lillie," which relates the story of his parents. I asked if he could say "Merry Christmas Bobbie Jane" to my mother from the stage. My mother enjoyed the concert very much, but there was no merry wish from the stage. I didn't think much about it; I had little expectation that my email would reach him. But the next day I got an email from Joe Bonsall telling me I'd emailed an old address that he checks very seldom. He asked if he could telephone my mother. I set up a time for that afternoon, and he called promptly. He spent at least 5 minutes on the phone talking with my mother, and they closed with prayer together. What a wonderful, thoughtful thing for Mr. Bonsall to do. Randy

    December 30, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    It's a befitting tribute to a former President and one of our four living former Presidents. Soldier on Great One.

    December 30, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  13. TPF

    A bunch of great guys singing to a great man. Just wish our current Pres. was 1/10th of what H. W. is.

    December 30, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |