The Oak Ridge Boys are headed for Beaver Creek
Beaver Creek CO, Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado “-The original Oak Ridge Boys ” then the Oak Ridge Quartet ” began performing country and gospel music near Oak Ridge, Tenn. where the atomic bomb was being developed in the 1940s. Yes, it’s been more than 60 years since the group first got going. And though none of the original members are still with the band, each time Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban take the stage, there is three decades of singles and 50 years of tradition backing them up.
In advance of their Wednesday show, bass singer Richard Sterban talked to the Vail Daily about the Oak Ridge Boys latest project, what the original Boys would think of the band now and how they wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for Johnny Cash.
Vail Daily: It’s says you were a fan before you became a member. How did you know about them?
Richard Sterband: First of all I was a fan of this kind of music, this genre ” Southern-style gospel quartet music. And out of all the groups in that category, Oak Ridge Boy stuck out to me ” they were my favorite. … When they called me up and offered me a job, I jumped at the chance to become a part of the group.
VD: What do you think the original members of the Oak Ridge boys would think about the band in its current incarnation?
RS: I think they all would love the success the group has enjoyed over the years. In fact, the oldest living member of the original group ” Lon “Deacon” Freeman ” passed away few years ago. But a couple of years before he passed away, he came to see us in Branson, Missouri. He came up on stage and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ with us. He loved the success the group’s had. He assured us, even back in the days when he was singing in the Oak Ridge Quartet, they went on stage and didn’t take any prisoners. Even back then, these old guys, they’d rear back and let them have it.
VD: You guys were gospel in the ’50s and ’60s and switched to country in the ’70s. Is there still a gospel/spiritual bent to your music?
RS: We are all still gospel guys, spiritual guys, we still include some gospel, occasionally we still record a gospel album. We have a new project coming out this spring, that has a few gospel songs on it. It’s the kind of music we cut our teeth on. We enjoy revisiting our roots, so to speak, and our fans really expect us to do a gospel song or two along with the hits.
VD: Why have you been around so long? What’s your secret?
RS: I think the main thing is that we love what we do. It’s pretty simple. … We still look forward to getting on stage every night. We still enjoy the creative process, going into the studio and recording new music. There’s still a spark that burns in all of us that makes us want to get out and do it. We don’t plan on retiring any time soon. Even though we’re older guys, we’re still in good health. As long as the good Lord keeps belssing us with good health, we’ll still be out here doing it because it’s what we really love to do.
VD: Over the years the Oak Ridge Boys have recorded with Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bill Monroe, Ray Charles and Shooter Jennings. Is there one person on that list, or a memory, that stands out?
RS: Johnny Cash used to be my neighbor until he passed away. Of all the people we worked with, Johnny Cash is at the top of that list. I really don’t think there would be a Oak Ridge Boys today if not for Johnny Cash. Not only did we record with him, he put us on his show, he took us under his wing, he really helped us out ” him and June both. … We were a struggling act back in those days and he encouraged us to stay together and stick it out … he said, ‘You guys, you have magic among you, the four of you, just stay together and it will happen.’
VD: What have you been working on lately? What are you most excited about?
RS: Two years ago Shooter Jennings called us up. He was a fan of ours and we didn’t even know it. He had a song on his new CD called “Slow Train,” that he wanted four-part harmony on there. He called us up and asked us if we’d be willing to sing. We went down to the studio in Nashville, the same studio that Waylan (Jennings) recorded in, where all the Outlaws cut their hit records in. We got to hang out with Shooter and hang out with his young producer, a guy named David Cobb. A couple months later, when Shooter’s album was released, he did a showcase to debut the new CD. It was in a place in Nashville called City Hall. … The place was packed with a bunch of kids, much younger than the kind of audiences we usually sing to today. We sang ‘Slow Train’ with Shooter but we also did ‘Elvira.’ The kids went crazy ” they knew every word. When David Cobb saw that, he decided he really wanted to produce us. We cut a whole project with this young guy. He just took us in some new musical directions … it’s music with an edge to it.
VD: What can people expect from your show?
RS: We will debut some of the new songs from that album in Beaver Creek, along with all the hits. Shooter Jennings actually wrote the title song for the project called ‘The Boys are Back.’ We’ll open our show with that song.
How long has William Lee Golden been growing his beard? i
RS: I know it’s been a long time. i’m trying to think what year he quit shaving. I can safely say at least 25 years, though I can’t think of the exact year he quit shaving.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.