The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Jeff Usner


Latest Gospel album, Back Home Again (2012)

The Oak Ridge Boys are:

Duane Allen (lead)

Joe Bonsall (Tenor)

William Lee Golden (Baritone)

Richard Sterban (Bass)

45 albums, 17 #1 Singles, Hits include “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue,” and “American Made,”

Over 30 Top Ten Hits

Have 12 gold, 3 platinum, and one each dbl platinum album and single – and one double platinum single

Earned Grammy, Dove, CMA, and ACM

Serve as spokesmen and/or board members for the Boy Scouts of America

Prevent Child Abuse America, Feed the Children, the National Anthem Project and many more

All married with families


Forty Years of The Oak Ridge Boys

By The 700 Club

The Oak Ridge Boys are one of the longest-running groups in country music history.  They still perform nearly 150 shows annually, release new music, and their fan base continues to grow.  At the beginning of 2013, they kicked off their 40th Anniversary Tour.  Two of the groups' members, Duane Allen and Richard Sterban say this is by no means a farewell tour.  As long as they are able and God allows them to they would like to keep making great music.

Their faith, charity, and distinctive four-part harmony are what have kept them going strong for all of these years.  This current line-up of Duane Allen, 1966, (lead), Joe Bonsall, 1973, (Tenor), William Lee Golden, 1965, (Baritone) and Richard Sterban in 1972.  Though there have been other group members that have come and gone this line up has endured.  “The Oaks” say it's not just musical harmony that has kept them together, they live in harmony.  Duane says even though they sing in harmony, it is better to live in harmony.  They have learned to appreciate and respect what each person brings to the group.  Faith and music keeps them together.  It is like a marriage.  They have learned to focus on the good things.  Duane continues, “We always look for songs that have lasting value and that are uplifting.”

Members of the group are also fans.  Richard says, “I was a fan of The Oaks before I became a member.  I’m still a fan of the group today.  Being in The Oak Ridge Boys is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.”

Duane says, “This is the only job I’ve ever wanted to have.”  When he goes on stage, he gets the same feeling he had the first time he sang with The Oak Ridge Boys.

Originally, the group was founded in the 1940s and was called the Oak Ridge Quartet. They became popular in southern gospel during the 1950s.   In the early 1960s, their name was officially changed to the Oak Ridge Boys and they continued to be a gospel-oriented group.   In 1973, they changed their image and concentrated on country music.

In 1977, The Oak Ridge Boys won their first major music award, Best Vocal Group from the Academy of Country Music.  They started the 80s with their top single “Elvira,” which hit the top of the Country and Pop charts.  It won a CMA award for Single of the Year; a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance by a Country Group or Duo; Academy of Country Music Award for Single of the Year and sold almost 3 million singles.  In 2000, The Oak Ridge Boys were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Career highlights include back-up for Paul Simon’s hit“Slip Sliding Away” and  recorded with Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Shooter Jennings, George Jones, Roy Rogers, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bill Monroe, and more.  They have appeared before all of the U.S. presidents from President Jimmy Carter until President George W. Bush – they have not yet performed for President Barack Obama. 

The Oak Ridge Boys' music is so steeped in Southern-style gospel.  Joe says, “The roots and heritage of this music are very important to the group.  It is part of the glue that holds us together.” Their new album Back Home Again was “a marriage made in heaven.”  They wanted to find songs before they started recording.    As a result, they found a lot of old spiritual songs.  The song “Lead Me to That Rock” is one of the first classic spiritual songs they found for this album.                                                                            

Former President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized in November 2012 for bronchitis and related issues. 

Former First Lady Barbara Bush requested that one of the 41st President’s favorite groups, The Oak Ridge Boys, come and sing to him.  The Oaks who had been friends with the Bush family for years, were all on vacation but were able to quickly get together in their office for a special performance.  They set up microphones and a video camera (they intended to send him the video later), called him at the hospital, and asked what song he would like to hear.  He said “Elvira” and they obliged him with the classic chorus.  Then, they followed that up with a few verses of the classic hymn “Amazing Grace.” The day after The Oaks sang to him, on December 28, 2012, he was moved out of intensive care.  Bassist Richard Sterban says this is a great testament to the healing power of music. 

A short while later they sent the video clip to the Bush family.  Their assistant asked if they could release it publicly.  She did and within a week the clip went viral receiving about 350 million hits worldwide.

When he was young, lead singer Duane mother told him she could hear him at their home below when he sang from the top of a nearby hill.  It seems Duane was always singing.  He is a native of Taylortown, TX.  Before joining an earlier formation of The Oak Ridge Boys in 1966, he received formal training in operatic and quartet singing with a B.S. in Music from Texas A& M University.

As a child, Duane wanted an antique car collection.  With his success, he was able to attain antique cars and share his collection with the fans.  After he achieved all he wanted, he originally thought he would retire.  However, Duane still found that he wanted to continue singing.  Duane says that God put him in this life to bring joy and to make a living  through music.  Duane has never stopped dreaming.  Through it all they have always asked God's guidance to help to make the right decisions.

If you asked Richard Sterban about being with The Oak Ridge Boys for 40 years he would not have believed it.  He still loves the creative process and finds it exciting.  When he was asked to join The Oak Ridge Boys, he already had what most consider a dream job – singing with J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, who were singing back up for Elvis at the time.  For Richard, it was not a hard decision to be a part of The Oak Ridge Boys.    He wrote about it in his new book From Elvis to Elvira.  Richard sees he and The Oak Ridge Boys as blessed men.  He is grateful for the opportunities he has had to do all that he has.    One of his favorite memories is singing to the late former President Ronald Reagan on the White House lawn.  With success comes responsibility.  They are constantly looking for opportunities to help others and pass it on.

Aside from being a successful singer, Joe is an accomplished writer.  He has written nine books, including “From My Perspective,” which shares his insights on life, family, God, patriotism, and more.  The song and book “G.I. Joe and Lillie” are based on his parents' story and the sacrifices they made as a military service couple in the 1940s.  Joe is very big on writing about America's heroes in the armed forces.   He says it is good when songs/writing can affect people in a positive way.  Joe also says that The Oak Ridge Boys have always been aware that as a group they could affect people positively, negatively, or not at all.  They've always wanted to be the group that touches people in a positive way.  He continues by saying God's blessing in their lives is because they have put Him first in their lives.

William Lee Golden has earned recognition for his individual achievements in both music and art. Over the years, the iconic features of “The Singing Painter” have been the subject of many sketches, paintings and sculptures by other world-renowned artists. William Lee has received the “Entertainment of The Year” Award from the Cherokee Indian Association, which is comprised of 21 tribes from across America as well as the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.  When he is not performing with The Oak Ridge Boys, he enjoys traveling the world with his family, stopping to capture a scene he will later paint, or simply enjoying the seasons at Golden Era Plantation.

Ron Fairchild plays Piano for over 30 years. His father played piano before him.

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