By Joe Southern
The Oak Ridge Boys are celebrating some big events this year and are inviting their friends and fans in Fort Bend County to join them when they come to Stafford April 14.
The country music quartet has been making music together for more than 40 years and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015. Beginning last year and continuing the party into this year, the foursome are on their Oak Ridge Boys Celebration Tour, which will come to the Redneck Country Club on Good Friday.
“We’re celebrating 44 years together and that’s about unheard of,” bass singer Richard Sterban said in a telephone interview with the Fort Bend Star. “The main thing we’re celebrating is our recent induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
The surprising thing is that country music’s super-group wasn’t already in the hall of fame. Sterban said the timing doesn’t matter, it’s the honor that counts.
“Our faces are in bronze on the wall!” he said.
Sterban, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and William Lee Golden have been performing together almost continuously since 1973 (Golden had a brief departure but returned to the group). The group itself began in 1945 as the Oak Ridge Quartet, a gospel music group. Many members came and went before the current lineup formed and in the mid-1970s crossed over to country music. They had a country-pop crossover in 1981 with “Elvira,” which sold 2.5 million albums. Already one of the biggest groups in country music, “Elvira” propelled them into super-stardom and served as a lunching pad for decades of hits to follow.
The Oaks have earned 12 gold, three platinum and one double platinum album, plus one double platinum single, and had more than a dozen national Number One singles and over 30 Top Ten hits. They’ve won numerous Grammy, Dove, ACM, and CMA awards and are known for such songs as “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 more.
Sterban said one of the keys to their success is the relationship they share.
“It’s what we do and we love what we do,” he said. “We’re still having fun doing it and that’s the key factor.”
He said they’ve also been a little lucky along the way.
“Over the years we’ve been able to pick up some great songs… We’ve had a knack for finding great songs that have held up over the course of the years,” he said.
Sterban said they won a Dove Award in the Best Country Recorded Song category for “Sweet Jesus,” which featured Merle Haggard. He said the song was the only one on their “Rock of Ages” album of hymns that isn’t a hymn.
“Merle Haggard wrote that song for us,” Sterban said. “He recorded his part for us. We were never in the studio at the same time.”
Sterban has a book out called “From Elvis to Elvira: My Life On Stage,” which, in addition to being his autobiography, famously recounts how he had been performing with Elvis Presley when he got the call to audition for the Oak Ridge Boys. He said he really struggled with the decision but has no regrets about his choice. “History has proven that I made a great decision,” he said.