NASHVILLE — Steve Sanders, a baritone who spent a decade with the Oak Ridge Boys after replacing one of country music's most colorful personalities, died Wednesday. He was 45.
The former child star died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police said Sanders' wife, Janet, told them he shot himself at his home in Cape Coral, Fla.
Sanders sang baritone from 1987 to 1996 with the Oak Ridge Boys, the former gospel music quartet that crossed over to country stardom in the late 1970s and peaked with the 1981 hit "Elvira."
After five years as the group's rhythm guitarist, Sanders replaced vocalist William Lee Golden, famous for his long gray hair and beard and "mountain man" attire. The other members are Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen and Richard Sterban.
Sanders performed on the Oak Ridge Boys' No. 1 hits "It Takes a Little Rain (to Make Love Grow)," "This Crazy Love," "Gonna Take a Lot of River" and "No Matter How High."
After Sanders left, citing personal problems that included court battles with his first wife, Golden rejoined the group.
Sanders had started his career as a child gospel singer billed as Little Stevie Sanders. He also appeared as a child on Broadway in "The Yearling" and in the 1967 film "Hurry Sundown" with Faye Dunaway and Jane Fonda.