The Oak Ridge Boys 40th Anniversary Tour
The year was 1973…
– George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees.
– George Foreman TKO’d Joe Frazier in two for the heavyweight championship.
– George Brett of the Kansas City Royals got his first major league hit.
– And Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, Duane Allen, and William Lee Golden came together as The Oak Ridge Boys.
Now, 40 years later, the Oaks have become America’s perennial music group, still performing nearly 150 shows annually, releasing new music, and making new fans.
– As a musical entity, The Oak Ridge Boys can trace their history to the mid-1940s, when a group of Gospel singers changed their name from the Georgia Clodhoppers to the Oak Ridge Quartet.
– More than 30 members have come and gone, but the most popular configuration—the current group–came together in 1973 when Joe Bonsall joined Richard Sterban (1972), Duane Allen (1966), and William Lee Golden (1965).
– In the mid-fifties, the Oak Ridge Quartet was featured in Time magazine as one of the top drawing Gospel groups in the nation. In 1973, the group began their move from Gospel into country music.
– Fittingly, in 1977, with a Gospel-flavored song about a saloon, the Oaks broke into Country music with no holds barred. They created their own brand, proudly combining their Gospel background with a predisposition to Rock ‘n Roll and an eye for the future.
“We had reached the height of Gospel success,” baritone William Lee Golden told Dolly Carlisle in an interview for People magazine, and then he made a prediction that would be realized within the next decade. “Inevitably our music will cross all borders and all labels.”
– That same year Paul Simon tapped the Oaks to sing backup for his hit Slip Slidin’ Away. The group would eventually record and/or tour with many of the industry’s most respected entertainers—Jimmy Dean, Johnny Cash, Mel Tillis, Kenny Rogers, Garth Brooks, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Jones, Roy Rogers, Bill Monroe, Ray Charles, and many others.
– In 1981, the Oak Ridge Boys’ double platinum single Elvira soared up the Billboard country and pop radio charts, settling the matter for good, and paving the way for thirty more albums.
Jack Hurst of the Chicago Tribune described the Oaks this way. “The pop-country and former Gospel aggregation thus demonstrated yet again that it has more lives than a yardful of cats.”
– The 1990’s provided fertile ground for the seeds of musical history that had already been sewn by the group. In 1998, they hosted a hit television variety series on TNN. The Oak Ridge Boys Live from Las Vegas, produced by Sherman Halsey, included guests from across the entertainment spectrum, including Tim McGraw, Sara Evans, Bill Engvall, Captain and Tennille, and the Fairfield Four.
– During the first decade of the new millennium, The Oak Ridge Boys continued to receive numerous awards and recognitions: Induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame; two more Dove Awards, for a total of eight career Doves; the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music; the Silver Buffalo award from the Boy Scouts of America; a six-month exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame; and the Fame Award from the MENC (National Association for Music Educators) in recognition of the group’s work as Musical Ambassadors for the three-year National Anthem Project.
– The Oaks were featured speakers at the March 2009 SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Festival in Austin, TX. Their topic was The Masters of Reinvention; their one-hour performance was broadcast live and subsequently replayed several times by DIRECTV, with 45 million viewers per broadcast.
As further proof of the Oaks’ success in crossing formats, in April 2009, they released a cover of a White Stripes song, Seven Nation Army, to country radio and also debuted a Gaither Gospel Music Homecoming television special.
“You would think after all these years, we would have nothing left to prove,” says lead singer and music producer Duane Allen. “But I believe there is still vocal magic that has yet to be captured. I’m excited about what lies ahead.”