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Oak Ridge Boys: These Colors Don't Run

By Sandy Engel
The 700 Club "Fifty years of tradition...that's what makes the Oak Ridge Boys one of country music's greatest living legends," said Lisa Ryan, 700 Club producer. "I'm here in the Ryman auditorium, the original home of the Grand Old Opry. And on this very stage the Oak Ridge Boys first performed in 1945."

"But none of us, I'm happy to report," said Richard, "are from that group. in the 1950's either because if we were we'd be a whole lot older."

"We'd even be older than we are," said Joe.

"Over the years, there's been as many as 40 members of the Oak Ridge Boys," said Lisa. "How did each of you come to join the group?"

"I can give you the history real quick," said Joe. "Golden was the first to join in 1965. Most of those other guys came in the 50s and early 60s.Golden joined here in 65. Duane in 66. Richard in 72, myself in 73."

"You guys are on the road 200 days a year," said Lisa. "You're doing 150 concerts. Does it ever get old to you? How do you keep it fresh?"

"New music makes it fresh," said Duane. "It all starts with a song--with the group. We're the ones responsible for bringing that excitement into the recording studio, into an interview or onto the stage when people see us. If they see that we're excited, they're excited. They pay good money to be excited. They pay to see us entertain them. And I think it's our responsibility to do that the best we can."

"We started out singing Gospel music," said Golden. "And then we had top country records from 1977 until 1981 and then Elvira which spilled over into pop music. So we were fortunate to be able to have a career that we could record music that actually was accepted by a broad fan base and music listeners.

"I think our fans are still a key part of what we are and what we're doing," said Richard. "Even after all these years people still spend their money to come see us in rather large numbers in most places And they treat us such a way most nights that it turns us on."

"I also think it's an uncanny love of some of our older material too," said Joe, "because the Oak Ridge Boys never get tired of singing our songs."

"The Oaks are known for their innovative style and sound," said Lisa. "Describe for me what makes up this signature sound."

"Within that sound we've got four individual singers who can go out and sing with the other guys singing around them and although it kind of changes the sound enough to make it interesting it never changes the overall sound," said Joe. "It's kind of a unique blessing, I think, that we've been able to do what we do for so long."

"The message of your music, whether it's Gospel or Country, has always been positive and uplifting," said Lisa. "How come you never went for any of those cheatin' and drinkin' songs?"

"We just didn't want to do that," said Duane.

"Was it a choice you made?" asked Lisa.

"Yes," said Duane. "Even the very first record. Ya'll Come Back Saloon. The first line that was written in that song was 'Lifting high his glass of whiskey.' I couldn't sing that. I felt like there were people in Gospel music who just wouldn't understand, and I didn't want to say it myself because I don't drink.

"We're all Christians," said Joe. "We all believe in our hearts the Bible as it is. We believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ. We sing Gospel songs every night-- we always have. We sing Gospel music to more people than Gospel acts do--and sing them on our show and from our heart as a tribute to the music and to God. We're entertainers. But man we're still born again Christians like the man up the street who sells shoes."

"Let's talk about your CD From the Heart," said Lisa.

"Our fans kept asking us, 'When are you going to do an all Gospel album-just Gospel?'" said Duane. "And we finally got free of our contracts so that we could do that

"God blessed our From the Heart project," said Joe. "It brought us closer together spiritually. It brought us closer to God--to get together and record Gospel music for the first time in so many years and to pay tribute to the music."

"It contains songs that contain a message that we all believe very, very deeply," said Richard. "I know I've been a Christian since I was nine years old. I accepted the Lord as My Savior when I was just a nine year old boy. Singing songs about what we believe gives us a chance through our music to express to people how we really feel about the Lord and about God."

"I think we all have learned to appreciate our roots and where we came from and what we stand for and it's all in that album," said Duane. "If I never made a penny from that album, I have received so much more than money from it. I've been fully paid. Thank you Lord."

"So Gospel music is not where we make our living. All the dates that we work are basically country music shows But on every show there's a segment in our concert that we do go back to our roots."

"Tell me about your new Christmas album," said Lisa. "There's got to be a story behind this title, An Inconvenient Christmas."

"It tells us that no matter how hectic our lives may get at Christmas," said Joe. "No matter how much cooking we have to do and the family and the presents, and Santa Claus-whatever--the most inconvenient Christmas ever was the first one when God sent His Son to give Himself to us and that's the message of the song."

"We combined that with some of the classic favorites that people love at Christmas," said Duane. "Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It's when family gets together, when we see our relatives that we don't see any other time of the year. And we all get together and share in the good things and celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

"What's the best thing about doing what you do?" asked Lisa.

"I think it's the singing and the harmonizing and the moments seeing if we can be as good today as we were yesterday and constantly striving to be as good or better than we've been."

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