The Saratoga Sun -

Oak Ridge Boys sell out

Popular gospel/country band sells out community center for benefit concert


Mike Armstrong

The Oak Ridge Boys got the crowd at the Platte Valley Community Center on their feet Saturday night during a tribute to Greg Allman.

William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Richard Sterben and Joe Bosnall-known as the Oak Ridge Boys-came to the Platte Valley Community Center (PVCC) to benefit local charities on Saturday.

The Oak Ridge Boys have a history that stretches back to the late 40s when the band was known as the Georgia Clodhoppers, according to Sterben. The band played so often near the nuclear research facility at Oak Ridge the band's name was changed to the Oak Ridge Quartet. In 1961, that name changed to the Oak Ridge Boys.

The current lineup first started with baritone Golden joining in 1965 says Sterben. In 1966, lead vocalist Duane Allen came on board. Bassist Sterben left J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet to join the Oak Ridge Boys in 1972 and Bosnall became a member in 1973. The band has kept the same lineup except between 1987 and 1995 when Golden left the group. With Golden's return, the band has since maintained the same lineup.

The Oak Ridge Boys recorded a single with Johnny Cash and the Carter Family, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Soup", that put them on the country charts for the first time in 1973. The group had success on the Columbia Record label, but left in 1977, but not before they sang the back up vocals on Paul Simon's hit single "Slip Slidin' Away".

In 1977 the Oak Ridge Boys switched from gospel to country with the release of "Ya'll Come Back Saloon." Two songs from that album reached the top five on the country charts.

The group's sixth album, "Fancy Free", released early in 1981, included the Dallas Frazier song "Elvira". This is the group's most well known song, and "Fancy Free" is their best-selling album. "Elvira" had been recorded by other singers, but the Oak Ridge Boys were the first to have a hit with it. Their version of the song was a number one country hit, and in July 1981 peaked at fifth on the pop charts.

Sterben said the famous deep verse "Oom poppa oom poppa mow mow" is probably his claim to fame.

The group followed up with the hit "Bobby Sue," which was number one on the country chart and 12 on pop charts. The band was having success during the 80s and released a second greatest hits album.

When Golden left, the Oak Ridge Boys continued recording and performing, but when Golden returned the band felt correct says Sterben.

"After several years without him, we realized it just wasn't the same without him, so we individually went to visit William's home to just talk," said Sterben. "We just realized with him, this was the way we were supposed to be."

The band put out successful albums in the early 2000s, but it was recording with Shooter Jennings in 2007 they met producer Dave Cobb.

Cobb had the idea of doing an album of live hits. They had never done this before and the resulting "Boys Night Out," has since become a fan favorite.

The Oak Ridge Boys are currently working with Cobb on a yet-to-be-titled project.

On June 8, Sterben was enthusiastic about playing in Nashville at the Ascend Stadium during the Country Music Awards and then going to the Grand Ol' Opry to do a mashup of the songs, "Doing It to Country Songs" and crowd-favorite "Elvira" with Blake Shelton.

"Blake is a funny guy and down to earth." said Sterben.

Bosnall pointed out, "We actually recorded that song with Blake February a year ago and the album came out in the spring. Played it with him on the CMT awards last June, then a whole time of went by and we started doing festivals where Blake was too and we have played it with him about seven or eight times. Two times in Grand Ol' Opry."

Bosnall acknowledged there is resurgent attention to "Elvira" by the current generation thanks to Shelton's interest in the song.

He is happy the group is getting to continue introduce itself to new listeners and keep the old ones satisfied.

Roger Eaton, guitarist for the Mighty Oaks Band, the Oak Ridge Boys instrumental lineup, said there was not much turnover in the group.

He says everyone in the group wants the fans to have a good time whatever size the audience. "Regardless if it is a stadium of 10,000 or an intimate theater of 400, I am going to give it everything I got," said Eaton. "That's how we are as a group."

In 2000, the Oak Ridge Boys were inducted to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame which Sterben says was notable but it was on October 25, 2015 the Oak Ridge Boys were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the category of modern-era artists.

That award was presented by Kenny Rogers, who years before had recorded a version of "Elvira" with his band Third Edition before the Oak Ridge Boys made it their signature tune.

"It was such an honor, to this day, I can't tell you how much it means to us," said Sterben.

The Oak Ridge Boys have played many times in Wyoming, but this is the first time in Saratoga.

Mike Armstrong

Frontman Joe Bosnall and Bassist Richard Sterben outside the PVCC dressing room Saturday.

Talking to the Saratoga Sun last week Sterben said, "Let me speak for the Oak Ridge Boys. We are looking forward to coming to Wyoming and we are going to do our best to make it a great time. We are going to give the fans exactly what they want to hear."

That is exactly what the Oak Ridge Boys did for the sold out crowd at the PVCC. The band did a mixture of their gospel hits along with country western crowd-pleasers, but it was a tribute to Greg Allman with the song "Travelin' Man" that brought the attendees to their feet. The audience stayed on its feet when the group followed with their biggest hit "Elvira", with Bosnall encouraging the listeners to sing along.

The band closed with "Bobby Sue," and as Sterben predicted the week before, the Oak Ridge Boys gave their fans exactly what they wanted to hear.


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