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The Dead Musicians Directory
Steve Sanders
AGE 45
JUNE 10, 1998


Former Oak Ridge Boys singer dead in apparent suicide


CAPE CORAL, Florida (Reuters)

Steve Sanders, a former lead singer for the popular country group the Oak Ridge Boys, died Wednesday, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, police said. He was 45.

"It appears to be a suicide," Cape Coral police spokesman Angelo Bitsis said.

He said officers were called to Sanders' home in a middle-class neighborhood of Cape Coral, a small town on Florida's west coast just outside Fort Myers, at about 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

"We got a call from his wife that he had shot himself," Bitsis said. "They (officers) found him in the bathroom with a gunshot wound to the head. There is no evidence of foul play."

Bitsis said Sanders' wife, Janet, was able to offer no reason her husband would take his own life.

Sang 'Lucky Moon,' others

Sanders joined the Oak Ridge Boys as rhythm guitarist in 1981 and replaced William Lee Golden as baritone singer in 1987. He sang lead on three of the band's top singles, "Gonna Take A Lot Of River," "No Matter How High," and "Lucky Moon."   The group is best known for its 1981 hit "Elvira."

Sanders, who was born in Richland, Georgia, sang gospel tunes as a child. At age 12 he began an acting career in which he played the role of Jody Baxter in the Broadway musical "The Yearling," and also performed on the "Ed Sullivan Show."

After the musical closed, he played a role in an Otto Preminger movie "Hurry Sundown" and appeared on the television series "Gunsmoke" and the ABC drama "Noon Wine" with Jason Robards and Olivia de Havilland.

Left band for personal reasons

When Sanders left Oak Ridge Boys in November 1995, a spokeswoman for the group said Sanders felt personal problems were affecting the band.

The problems involved a four-year battle with his first wife, Mary Milbourne Sanders, over child support. In 1994 Steven and Janet Sanders went to court to charge Mary Sanders with malicious prosecution, libel and slander.

Four years earlier, Sanders' ex-wife had charged Janet Sanders with criminal trespass and assault for allegedly taunting her at her workplace.

The Oak Ridge Boys evolved from a World War II-era band called the Oak Ridge Quartet based in Nashville, Tennessee.

During the past three decades they have been one of the most popular U.S. country music groups, winning numerous music industry honors and giving command performances for European royals and three U.S. presidents.

                  Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.





Steve Sanders (b. 17 September 1941, Richland, Georgia)

          Steve who was born in Richland, Georgia, was propelled into the limelight as a child star singing gospel music, billed as 'Little Stevie Sanders.' He later appeared on Broadway in The Yearling, and in the 1967 film Hurry Sundown starring Faye Dunaway. Later, Steve traveled overseas with Mylon Lefevre and Stevie Winwood, before joining The Oaks Band.

          During Steve's tenure as an Oak Ridge Boy, the group recorded country hits such as Gonna Take A Lot Of River, No Matter How High, and Beyond Those Years. Prior to joining the group's front rank in 1987, he spent five years playing rhythm guitar with The Oaks Band.

          Words are inadequate to express the shock and grief shared by everyone in The Oak Ridge Boys organization, his many friends in the entertainment industry, and the thousands of fans he leaves behind. He will always be remembered for his awesome talent and longstanding friendship.

          A memorial service for Steve has been scheduled for Thursday, June 19, 1998, 7PM at the McKendree United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville. This service is open to the public. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the scholarship fund outlined below.

          A Steve Sanders Scholarship fund has been created at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, TN.

          For more information, call 615/452-8600.


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