Oak Ridge Boys not slowing after decades of performing

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Mar. 7—The Oak Ridge Boys may have formed as a gospel group in Knoxville, Tenn. in the early 1940s but don't mistake this crew for an oldies outfit. The vocal act, bringing its Front Porch Singin' Tour 2022 to the Masonic Center in Dayton on Friday, March 11, is very much a vibrant, viable group.

The current lineup, Duane Allen (lead vocals), William Lee Golden (baritone), Richard Sterban (bass) and Joe Bonsall (tenor), has been together for 49 years but continues to remain relevant for three big reasons. These cats can still sing their tails off, they all remain eager to work and they have a major supporter in Dave Cobb, the Grammy Award-winning producer who has worked with artists like Chris Stapleton, Brandy Carlile, Jason Isbell and Barry Gibb.

Sterban, who is marking his 50th year with the Oak Ridge Boys in 2022, recently answered some questions about the group and the Cobb-produced album, "Front Porch Singin'" (2021).

Q: The latest album is a stripped-down mix of standards and new songs but it's not a holiday album. How was it inspired by the group's Christmas show?

A: Dave Cobb came to our Christmas show three or four years ago. He saw the rocking chair segment where the four Oak Ridge Boys actually sit in Cracker Barrel rocking chairs, in front of a fireplace. Each man takes turn talking and then we sing songs between each guy. It's kind of down-to-earth and gives the audience a chance to get to know us a little bit more and fans really like that. Dave saw that and he came to us after the show and said, 'I want to capture that feeling you guys had in the rocking chairs but I want to capture it on a record. We cannot, obviously, do it on rocking chairs in front of a fireplace and it's not going to be a Christmas project. Let's make it like four guys just gathering on a front porch,' so that's how the idea was born.

Q: What's it like working with Dave again on what is now your fourth project together?

A: We're certainly happy with the way this one turned out. Dave really is the hottest guy in town. He listens to our feedback, of course, but we allow him to kind of take the reins. He leads us and guides us in the direction he thinks we should go but we really like that.

Q: Congratulations on 50 years with the Oak Ridge Boys. Can you remember back to your thoughts when you were asked to join the group?

A: I was in a group called JD Sumner & the Stamps Quartet and, believe it or not, I was actually singing with Elvis. I was entirely on top of the world when I got a phone call from William Lee Golden. He's the guy in our group with the long beard, only back then he did not have that long beard. He was Mr. GQ back then and he called and said the bass singer in the Oak Ridge Boys was going to leave the group. They wanted to know if I'd be interested in the job. Here I was singing with Elvis, you know, but I had to make a decision on what to do.

Q: What convinced you to leave Elvis behind?

A: I had to admit, at the same time, I was a big fan of the Oak Ridge Boys. I loved the music they were making. I collected all of their albums. I really felt like the group had a great deal of potential and I wanted to be a part of it, quite simply, so I made a decision to leave Elvis and join the Oak Ridge Boys. Back then, a lot of people questioned it but I really believed I was doing the right thing. I followed my heart and now that I look back, 50 years later, I think I made a pretty good decision. It turned out OK.

Q: You were right because the group's biggest mainstream success was ahead, including a run of country hits in the 1970s and 1980s. There have been ups and downs but the group hasn't stopped. What keeps the Oak Ridge Boys going?

A: We don't plan to slow down very much even though we're not kids any longer. We're going to play close to 150 dates this year and we like it that way. The good Lord above will let us know when it's time to retire but we're not quite there yet. We got a taste of what it was like to be retired during the pandemic. We'd all probably say we had mixed emotions about that. Yes, it was good to be home all of the time, when we hadn't been home most of our lives, but we really missed performing for audiences. That's what we live for. We feel like that's our calling in life so we plan to keep working."

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.



What: The Oak Ridge Boys' Front Porch Singin' Tour

Where: Masonic Center, 525 W. Riverview Ave., Dayton

When: 8 p.m. Friday, March 11. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Cost: $27.95-$89.95

More info: daytonmasonic.live

Artist info: www.oakridgeboys.com