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The Sound

Good ol’ Boys


This has been a year of celebration for the Oak Ridge Boys. One of country music’s most venerable acts, this marks its 40th anniversary with the same lineup.

The Oak Ridge Boys bring their Christmas show to Hoyt Sherman Place on Nov 11.

The Oak Ridge Boys brought their Christmas show to Hoyt Sherman Place on Nov 30.

“Like most things in life, it feels like time goes by so fast,” said bass singer Richard Sterban in a phone interview. “If you told any of us 40 years ago we’d still be doing this, I don’t think any of us would have believed it.”

“But,” Sterban was quick to remind everyone, “while this is our 40th anniversary tour, this is by no means a farewell tour.”

Indeed the Oak Ridge Boys are still going strong. The last album, 2011’s “It’s Only Natural,” was a top 20 hit on both the Billboard country and indie charts, and for 2009’s “The Boys Are Back,” the group collaborated with Shooter Jennings and covered The White Stripes in an attempt to appeal to a younger crowd.

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“(‘The Boys Are Back’) allowed us to travel some roads that we’ve never been down in our career,” Sterban said, referring to the band’s cover of “Seven Nation Army.” “(Producer David Cobb) said, ‘Trust me on this one. This is going to be good for you.’ ”

Which isn’t to say that The Oak Ridge Boys have abandoned the lady they came with.

“While we’ve reinvented ourselves, we’ve made it a point not to change ourselves,” Sterban insisted.

For The Oak Ridge Boys, that means the accessibly charming, slightly cornball classic sound that made them famous when they were hitting the top of the charts with songs like “Bobby Sue” and “Elvira,” are ever present.

“I remember the day that our producer Ron Chansey played us Dallas Frasier’s version of (‘Elvira’).” Sterban recalled. “But while we thought it was a cool song, none of us realized how big it was going to become.”

“Elvira” would become far and away the band’s largest hit, and the song — with Sterban’s now iconic “om pa pa mow mow” chorus — is now the group’s signature.

“We realized it the first time we performed it in public,” Sterban said. “It was in Spokane, Wash. We just stuck it in the middle of the show with no fanfare, and the response we got was astounding. We had to encore that song four times — in the middle of the show. They would not let us stop singing that song.”

Since the 1981 release of “Elvira,” The Oak Ridge Boys have released 27 more studio albums, traveled the world on Air Force One, performed for Presidents and Prime Ministers and, in 2011, were named as members of the Grand Ole Opry.

“When I think back on (our career), nothing is more special than the night we became members of the Grand Ole Opry,” Sterban said. “The Grand Ole Opry IS country music.”

Now they are touring with their annual Christmas show — a unique event in its own right.

“It’s a special show,” Sterban said. “It’s (really) two shows in one. We’ll come out in the beginning and do our regular show — yes, you’ll hear ‘Elvira’ — then we take an intermission, and then we do a Christmas show.

“We have an association with Cracker Barrel, and they’ve provided us with four Cracker Barrel rocking chairs. So we have a segment where the four Oak Ridge Boys sit in rocking chairs and share our Christmas memories, where people really feel like they can get to know the band.”

The band that’s been going for 40 years and counting.

“We’ll go as long as health allows,” Sterban concluded. “We realized long ago that we all need each other. We’re a true team.” CV

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