Oak Ridge Boys embrace country status

Performing Saturday at Lake Ozark’s Shawnee Bluff Vineyard

Oak Ridge Boys will perform Saturday at Shawnee Bluff Vineyard at Eldon.

Oak Ridge Boys will perform Saturday at Shawnee Bluff Vineyard at Eldon.

People didn’t think The Oak Ridge Boys were country enough years ago when the group’s current vocalists began singing together.

Forty years and 23 No. 1 country records later, the band is still touring and producing new music.

But, Oak Ridge Boy vocalist Richard Sterban said the industry has changed a bit.

“When I look at what is happening in country music today, it’s really a lot different,” Sterban said. “When I look at the award shows or if I listen to country radio, I can see now why we really don’t fit in there any more.

“What these young kids are doing is totally different than what we did.”

He said The Oak Ridge Boys are now considered “classic country,” and he’s OK with that.

“We still have to be ourselves,” he said. “We’re still doing what we do and we’re still doing it at a pretty high level.”

The Oak Ridge Boys are set to play around 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Eldon’s Shawnee Bluff Vineyard, 8 Tol Wood Road, as a part of their 40th anniversary tour.

“It’s really kind of mind-boggling when you think about it,” Sterban said of the tour. “I think if you asked any one of the four of us 40 years ago if we thought 40 years later we would still be doing it and at this level, I don’t think any of us would have believed it.”

The Oak Ridge Boys’ group includes vocals from Sterban, William Lee Golden, Joe Bonsall and Duane Allen.

Sterban said the group already existed before any of the four men became a part of it. The 40th anniversary commemorates the anniversary of all four of them being members of the group.

“It really was just a matter of each guy being in the right place at the right time when there was a membership change,” Sterban said.

He said he left a gig singing with Elvis to join The Oak Ridge Boys.

“I was singing in a group called J.D. Sumner and The Stamps Quartet and William Lee Golden called me up one day and offered me the job,” Sterban said. “Even though I was singing with Elvis and part of the biggest tour in the music business, it was not a difficult decision for me, because I knew I wanted to be a part of The Oak Ridge Boys.”

Many of Sterban’s favorite memories with the band include singing for every president of the United States since President Jimmy Carter, with the exception of President Barack Obama.

Earlier this year the group sang to former President H.W. Bush, who was sick and in the hospital.

Per the president’s request the group sang “Elvira” over the phone and then surprised the Bushes with their favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

“We later heard that the expression on his (Bush’s) face was priceless,” Sterban said.

He said the very next day Bush was released from intensive care and into a regular room and a few weeks later, he went home.

“We’ve always believed that music is very healing, but we experienced it firsthand,” Sterban said.

Another one of his favorite memories was being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2011.

“Ever since it happened a couple of years ago, I still sometimes have a difficult time finding words to express how really cool it was,” he said.

Sterban believes there are several reasons the group has been together for 40 years. He said they have a friendship that is second-to-none.

“We’ve also developed a love for each other, and we’ve developed a respect,” he said. “We respect each other as men and we respect each others’ talents.”

He said the entire family can gain a lot from attending an Oak Ridge Boy show.

“We’re going to do a lot of hits,” he said. “We also have spent some time in the recording studio in recent years, recording new music, kind of reinventing ourselves a little bit.”

He said the group will also sing some Gospel, as well as patriotic songs.

“Just in general, it’s always a great night of good country music and family entertainment,” Sterban said. “That’s really what we’re all about.”

Tickets for the Oct. 12 show at Shawnee Bluff Vineyard range from $15-50 and can be purchased through startickets.com or by calling 573-365-1100.

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