The Coalfield Jamboree in Logan will host one of the biggest names in country music Thurs., June 25, when The Oak Ridge Boys perform in concert.
Current members Joe Bonsall, William Lee Holden, Duane Allen and Richard Sterban joined their harmonic vocal talents together in 1973.
Richard Sterban, bass singer of the group, told The Logan Banner during a recent interview that the group looks forward to performing their musical act and still has fun doing it.
“In October, I will be a member of the group for 43 years,” Sterban said. “Joe Bonsall joined a year after me, so he’s been there 42 years. So this combination has been together 42 years. It’s pretty amazing. William Lee Golden joined the group 50 years ago and Duane Allen 49 years ago.
“I think if you asked anyone of the four of us 42 years ago if we thought that 42 years later we would still be doing this, and doing it at a high level… I don’t think anyone of us have believed it. Here we are, still going strong… we have a new album out and we don’t have any plans to retire. We love what we do. We still look forward every night to taking our musical act on stage to our fans and to our audiences and we are still having fun doing this.”
Sterban said The Oaks have no plans to retire.
“We don’t plan to retire. Health is probably our key to our future,” Sterban said. “I guess as long as the good Lord above keeps blessing the four of us with good health you’re going to see us out doing this.”
Making more than 150 appearances annually, the group spends a lot of time on the road. Sterban said the traveling has allowed him to see the country.
“There are so many beautiful spots in the United States. We live in a great country,” Sterban said. “Along with the touring and the music, seeing some of this great country certainly is a highlight for me personally as well as some of the other guys. William Golden is a great artist, but he is also great with photography. He takes pictures of all the beautiful landscapes around this country and there are some beautiful spots to see. Seeing this country is a beautiful sideline if I might say.”
The Oak Ridge Boys have performed worldwide, but Sterban said his most enjoyable performances have been at the White House.
“We have had a chance to perform for every president of the United States since Jimmy Carter, with the exception of our current president. We have not performed for President Obama. We’ve not been invited to do so; we would certainly accept the invitation if it was extended our way,” Sterban said. “On two or three different occasions, we have actually sung on the lawn of the White House for the Congressional barbeque. The first time we did it Ronald Reagan was the president. We got to meet then Vice President George Bush who became a very good friend. George and Barbara Bush are very good friends of ours. They allowed us, when he was in office, to spend the night at the White House, which is a tremendous honor. No doubt about it, it was a very special experience to sleep in the White House. It’s hard to describe almost. Singing on the lawn of the White House and spending the night at the White House and actually flying on Air Force One with Bush certainly ranks up there as our special moments in our career.
The Oak Ridge Boys’ song “Elvira,” released in 1981, has been their biggest hit, but Sterban said “Thank God for Kids” is the highlight of their shows.
“Of course, ‘Elvira’ is our biggest song. That’s our signature song… that’s the song people know us by,” Sterban said. “I think the highlight of our show every night is the song ‘Thank God for Kids.’ William Golden does such a great job on that song. He interprets the lyrics so well and you look out into the audience when we are singing that song and you see people hugging their kids… see people holding hands… people actually brushing back tears from their eyes. It’s just a special moment on our show and a special moment in music. Written by Eddy Raven, it is a very special song. But now, not only do we say ‘thank God for kids,’ but we now also say ‘thank God for grandkids’ too because we are all grandfathers.”
Sterban said The Oaks take advantage of the song writing talent found in Nashville.
“We have written some of our songs but for the most part all of our hits have been written by other writers,” Sterban said. “Ron Chancey was our producer for many years. He produced all our number one records and he had a knack for finding hit songs. Duane Allen, our lead singer, works very hard in that area as well. We work in a town where some of the best song writers in the world live, here in Nashville. And the best publishing companies as well. We make use of that and it has served us fairly well for throughout our career.”
The Oak Ridge Boys has recently released a new gospel CD called “The Oak Ridge Boys Rock of Ages.” Sterban said it is a collection of old hymns.
“It’s an album of old hymns… Rock of Ages, In the Garden, Blessed Assurance… songs all of us grew up on as kids. Anyone who has ever been to church or Sunday School will recognize these titles. They are very, very familiar,” Sterban said. “We worked with a young producer named Ben Isaacs. Ben is with a bluegrass gospel group called The Isaacs and he kind of took the music in that direction a little bit. We’re not bluegrass singers and we don’t sound bluegrass, but the acoustical is probably a better way to put it. It allows the voices to come out to the front served this style of music very, very well. We’re proud of our new CD. It is available at Cracker Barrell. If you go to Cracker Barrell, first of all you will get a good meal and then you can buy this CD. Or you can buy it from us when we come to town.”
Also available will be a new book written by Joe Bonsall, who sings tenor in the group.
“It’s called ‘On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys.’ It’s available all over as well… anywhere that retails books and, once again, when we come to town you can buy it from us. It is an interesting look at The Oak Ridge Boys. It’s not so much history of The Oak Ridge Boys; that has been written on in the past. This is a behind the scenes look at what we do… what it is like to ride on a bus with The Oak Ridge Boys. What it is like to go to a rehearsal or sound check with The Oak Ridge Boys. Just what we do every day… you get a very good look at that. It is called On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys by Joe Bonsall who is an excellent writer. It’s just been out a short time. That’s two things I think every Oak Ridge Boys fan would want to have.”
For a group that travels in two custom buses and a tractor trailer for stage equipment, Sterban said the small stage of the 1,200 seat Coalfield Jamboree doesn’t’ bother him.
“We kind of like it to be very honest with you. We do smaller venues from time to time,” Sterban said. “It’s kind of nice to be in a small place where it is very intimate and you can actually see everybody and almost reach out and touch everybody.”
Again, the Oak Ridge Boys will perform Thurs., June 25, beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling 304-752-2900 or 304-687-8511 or by stopping by the ticket booth at the Coalfield Jamboree Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
The concert is sponsored in part by Pepsi, C&W Discount Furniture Company, Logan County Commission, Logan Bank & Trust, Southern Amusement, Justice Feed and Hardware, City of Logan, Hatfield Market and Deli, and Family Discount Pharmacy at Stollings and Mt. Gay.