By Sue Gruman Kraft
The Oak Ridge Boys will be performing their “Down Home Christmas Show” at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen on Friday, December 20, 2019. Tickets are on sale now.
The legendary Oak Ridge Boys return to our area, bringing their four-part harmonies and upbeat country and gospel music that is loved by their multi-generational group of fans.
The four vocalists have been working together for over 46 years. William Lee Golden, baritone, has been with the group since 1965. Duane Allen, lead singer, joined in 1966. Richard Sterban, bass singer, joined the group in 1972, and Joe Bonsall, tenor, joined the group in 1973.
This is their 30th Annual Christmas Tour and this show that they are bringing to the casino is their biggest one of the year, explained Richard Sterban. They are touring from November 13 until just before Christmas, and this is a show provided with families in mind, so bring the kids, he said. This show combines both the fan favorites and Christmas tunes. It also includes Santa Claus, rocking chairs, and the true meaning of Christmas.
What do the Oaks enjoy most about performing?
“It’s the people,” Sterban said. “Looking at the reaction of the people as we are performing.” “We work very hard to record meaningful songs, meaningful music. Seeing our music affecting people is important. We’ve wanted to be an act that made a difference,” he explained.
The Oak Ridge Boys have been working with Dave Cobb on some new albums. A new Christmas CD, called “Down Home Christmas,” just like the name of their Christmas Tour, includes some traditional songs, as well as some new Christmas songs from some younger writers, Sterban said.
On the Christmas album, they have recorded a very special song, “Amazing Grace.” A year ago, they were asked to sing this song at the funeral for former President George Bush. They were able to establish a friendship with George Bush Sr. many years ago, when he was vice-president, and whenever they sang for him, he always requested “Amazing Grace.” They were honored to be asked to sing it at his funeral in 2018. This took place in the middle of last year’s Christmas Tour. They flew on a private plane to Houston, met with the Bush family, performed at the funeral, and then flew back to Washington State to perform their next concert.
Another album they have worked on, also produced by Dave Cobb, is called 17th Avenue Revival. Sterban calls this very special, because it combines the old and the new. “It marries Rock-A-Billy and Gospel,” he stated. This is “music that is meaningful, that helps people through the times of their lives, and affects people in a good way.”
The name of the album refers to the revival of soul and spirit, and it was recorded at RCA Studio A, which is located on 17th Avenue South, on Music Row in Nashville. “They were going to tear it down,” he said. But people got together and changed those plans. “We were able to save the studio, and recording in that historic studio represents a revival of the studio,” Sterban explained.
The Oaks are always involved with projects.
They are working with AARP in a project to prevent fraud. “We have always tried to do the right thing,” Sterban stated “We’ve been very successful, and it is our responsibility to help other people,” he stated. The Oak Ridge Boys are working with the AARP and the Department of Justice to prevent fraud on our elderly. They have recorded several messages to use to get the word out about prevention.
The Oak Ridge Boys also feel strongly about keeping music in our schools “It starts with ME – Music Education,” is the main message. All four of them benefited from public school education and having music education. They are spokespersons for the National Anthem Project. Budgets are being cut in schools and music education is often cut. “I don’t think some of us would be here today if we hadn’t received music education in school,” Sterban explained.
Members of the group have also pursued their own projects.
For two years prior to joining the Oak Ridge Boys, Richard Sterban sang with various groups, including “J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet,” which gave him the opportunity to sing with Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, performing on stage, recording with him, and appearing in one of his movies. This was an exciting time, and over the years, he would talk about it.
These memories are now included in detail in a new book “From Elvis to Elvira, which Richard Sterban has co-written with Steven Robinson. This book includes many great Elvis stories and stories about the Oak Ridge Boys.
Duane Allen encourages the love of performing with his family. Joe Bonsall is an author, and has written a number of books. William Lee Golden is very involved with his photography. Richard Sterban continues to promote the Oak Ridge Boys, and also enjoys time with his own family.
The Oak Ridge Boys are famous for their songs, which include “Elvira, “Bobbie Sue,” “Dream On,” “Thank God for Kids,” “American Made,” “I Guess it Never Hurts to Hurt Sometimes,” “Fancy Free” “Gonna Take a Lot of River,” and many more.
They have made one double platinum, three platinum and 12 gold albums. They have had more than a dozen national Number One singles and over 30 Top Ten hits. They have earned the Academy of Country Music Pioneer Award, Grammy, Dove, CMA and other ACM awards, as well as gained other industry and fan recognition. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 25, 2015.
The Oak Ridge Boys continue to make many good memories together. “We do not plan to retire any time soon,” Sterban stated. “As long as we are in good health, we plan to continue.”
What message would the Oak Ridge Boys like to give to the fans? “We are looking forward to coming your way. We have worked very hard creating the show, spent many hours rehearsing. It’s a great way for the family to spend an evening. Come help the Oak Ridge Boys Celebrate Christmas.”