In October 1973, Joe Bonsall became the newest member of The Oak Ridge Boys, replacing long-time tenor, Willie Wynn. One of Joe’s first jobs after joining was to head into the studio and recut vocals on an album for Columbia Records (much of which had already been completed when Willie left). While Willie’s voice can still be heard throughout the album (and on at least one song, both Willie and Joe can be heard!), his feature song, “What A Time We Will Have Over There” had to be recut by Joe.
Listening to the final recording, it doesn’t sound much like the Joe Bonsall that fans would come to recognize. He has admitted that it was his first time in the studio with the group, and he was fairly nervous (while also trying his best to copy Willie’s original vocal performance). The song would later be re-cut as a live rendition and released independently as a radio single (gaining some traction on the Singing News Top 80), which exhibited the more familiar “power vocal” performance Bonsall is most recognized for.
After leaving the Oaks, Willie would go on to join Hovie Lister & The Statesmen for a brief period before starting his own group, The Tennesseeans. It was during his time with the Statesmen that Willie re-recorded “What A Time,” giving fans an idea of what his original vocal take would’ve sounded like.
The two singers are quite different in a number of ways, but in this instance with the two studio recordings, the two sound quite alike. The only real differences between the two studio performances (other than instrumentation and a slight shuffling of the verses) is that Willie tends to throw in a few extra licks here and there. In any case, it’s an interesting comparison.
Are there any other singers who have completed a song with one group, only to leave before the song is released (and have their performance recut by a new member), only to re-record the song again themselves with another group?