22 Years Ago Today: Former Oak Ridge Boys Singer Steve Sanders Dies in Apparent Suicide
Steve Sanders left behind a successful career and a troubled personal legacy when he died on June 10, 1998. The former Oak Ridge Boys singer died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, according to reports.
Born in 1952 in Richland, Ga., Sanders got his start in the entertainment business as a child singing gospel music. He appeared on Broadway in The Yearling, and also in the 1967 film Hurry Sundown, which starred Jane Fonda and Faye Dunaway. He'd had a long career as a gospel singer before ultimately landing a gig as the Oak Ridge Boys' sideman guitarist at the peak of their commercial success in the early '80s. When the superstar vocal group parted ways with singer William Lee Golden in 1987, Sanders stepped from the back of the stage to the spotlight, taking over Golden's vocal duties from '87 until 1995.
Sanders made his recording debut as a member of the Oaks on their Heartbeat album in 1987, and he was featured on several of their later hits, including "Gonna Take a Lot of River," which gave them a No. 1 hit in 1988.
He parted ways with the group in November of 1995 after years of ongoing legal and personal battles between Sanders, his first wife and his second wife began to draw unwanted headlines and negative publicity. William Lee Golden subsequently returned to the group, and the Oak Ridge Boys remain together to this day.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Sanders was 45 when he died at his home in Cape Coral, Fla. Jeanne Schick of the Medical Examiner's Office of Lee County, Fla., found his cause of death to be a gunshot to the head.
"We believe it was a suicide," Angelo Bitsis, a spokesman for the Cape Coral Police Department, said. Sanders's wife, Janet, told police that he had shot himself.
The Oak Ridge Boys were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015.
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