Oak Ridge Boys to Appear at Clay County Fair

The following article appeared in Clay Today on March 29, 2012

By Christina Leach Phillips


GREEN COVE SPRINGS — When The Oak Ridge Boys go on stage at the Clay County Fair on Saturday, April 7, they will sing many of their old hits as well as some new songs, mixed in with a little gospel and patriotic music, says Richard Sterban, bass singer of the legendary country music group.

“We have a gospel music background.  We’re also patriotic, and we like to do songs that honor our country, our troops, our veterans, our flag,” he said. “Along with the hits, we’ll include some new music, including ‘What’cha Gonna Do’ from the new Cracker Barrel project.”

In a phone interview with Clay Today, Sterban said the show will be very family oriented. “If there ever was a built-in audience that was our audience, it is inside a county fair. We encourage parents to bring their kids, and there is something for every member of the family.”

The Oak Ridge Boys will include their signature song, “Elvira,” with “Oom Poppa Mow Mow,” a refrain Sterban sings in his deep bass voice. He said, “You know, we recorded ‘Elvira’ in 1981, and I don’t ever recall a show in 31 years when we did not perform ‘Elvira.’ That song is an absolute must!”

Sterban, who is known for wearing suits during performances, said that before he got a full-time job singing, he sold men’s clothing at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia. “I developed a love for clothing.  It kind of carried over into my musical career,” he said. “It’s a thing that I enjoy, and it has become a part of the fun of going to an Oak Ridge Boys’ concert to see exactly what I’m going to wear.” 

The Oak Ridge Boys, who have sung together for about 40 years, include Sterban as bass singer; Duane Allen as lead singer; William Lee Golden as baritone; and Joe Bonsall as tenor.

Before Sterban joined The Oak Ridge Boys in 1972, he sang vocal back up for Elvis Presley and with the J. D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. The other three members, Allen, Golden, and Bonsall, joined in 1966, 1965 and 1973, respectively.

The group was originally founded in the 1940s as the Oak Ridge Quartet and became popular in southern gospel in the 1950s, when they played at the nuclear research plant in Oak  Ridge, Tenn. The name was later changed to The Oak Ridge Boys, and the group went through several personnel changes.  In the 1970s, they began concentrating on country music.

In 2011, The Oak Ridge Boys were formally inducted into the Grand Ole Opry family. They have had more than a dozen number one singles as well as over 30 Top 10 hits. In addition, they have racked up 12 gold and three platinum albums, one double platinum album, and one double platinum single.

The Oak Ridge Boys’ latest album, “It’s Only Natural,” recorded through a collaboration with Cracker Barrel, includes the single, “What’cha Gonna Do.” Sterban said, “It’s the first record that we have had in a long, long time that’s getting some substantial airplay on country radio.  It’s really kind of cool after all these years to be in that position again.”

They also have a new album coming out in May called “Back Home Again.” Sterban said, “It’s primarily gospel. It is very acoustical in nature, and we use a lot of bluegrass instruments. There are also two or three very good songs on there that are suitable for country radio as well.”

In addition, the group will soon record its sixth Christmas album that Sterban said will be a mix of traditional Christmas songs, new Christmas music, and songs about “Santa and the birth of Jesus.”

With a touring schedule that averages 150 days a year, the Oak Ridge Boys have experienced longevity in the music business for several reasons, Sterban said.

“I think, foremost, is the fact that we love what we do.  Even after all these years, we still look forward to getting out on stage and performing our music live to our audiences,” he said.  “We’re still having fun doing it, and I think that is really very important. We enjoy everything about being Oak Ridge Boys.”

He said they also love the creative process of recording new music. “Periodically, we have been able to reinvent ourselves a little bit and record music that is relevant to the current marketplace. I think that new music puts new life and new energy into our group.”

But ultimately, Sterban said it’s the performance that makes them one of the longest-running groups in country music. “The fact that people are still spending their hard-earned money to come and see the Oak Ridge Boys and turning out in large numbers really makes us feel good, and it’s what keeps us going — it really is.”

The Oak Ridge Boys will appear at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 7, in the Cattlemen’s Arena at the Agricultural Fairgrounds in Green Cove Springs. Stadium seating is free with fair admission, but there is also reserved seating. Go online to www.claycountyfair.org for more details.