Oak Ridge Boys plan Paramount show
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media May 10, 2012 4:26PM
The Oak Ridge Boys will be at the Paramount on May 20. | FIle Photo
The Oak Ridge Boys
♦ 3 p.m. May 20
♦ Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
♦ Tickets, $49-$59
♦ (630) 896-6666
Some singing groups stay together for as little as four months, or, if they are lucky, they might stick it out for four years. But the current lineup of The Oak Ridge Boys, who will perform on May 20 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, has been together for nearly four decades.
“We love doing what we do, and we are still having fun doing it,” said bass singer Richard Sterban about The Oak Ridge Boys longevity. “We love the creative process of going into the recording studio and creating new music, and then taking the music on stage. That’s the biggest thing that keeps us going. New music puts new life into us.”
Sterban also believes that being friends with the other members of the quartet has helped the group stay together.
“We have become the best of friends,” said Sterban of fellow Oak Ridge Boys members lead singer Duane Allen, tenor Joe Bonsall and baritone William Lee Golden. “We have developed a friendship and a respect for each other. We are a true team.”
But the history of the group goes back even farther than the nearly 40 years that the current lineup has been together.
The original group, known as the Oak Ridge Quartet, was based in Knoxville, Tenn., and began performing country and gospel music in nearby Oak Ridge. They began regular Grand Ole Opry appearances in the fall of 1945.
By the late 1960s, with more than 30 members having come and gone, they had a lineup that included Allen, Golden, Noel Fox, and Willie Wynn, but had many acquaintances in the gospel field like Bonsall and Sterban.
The four became friends, and when the Oak Ridge Boys needed a bass and tenor in 1972 and 1973, respectively, Sterban and Bonsall got the calls. For a while, the group continued with its gospel roots.
Then in 1975, the Oak Ridge Boys were asked to open several dates for country star Roy Clark. Clark’s manager, Jim Halsey, suggested that the group start singing country songs. The group took his advice and the result catapulted the group to greater success.
The distinctive four-part harmonies of The Oak Ridge boys have netted them nearly 50 studio and compilation albums, 17 number one singles and numerous music awards. The group’s string of hits includes the country-pop chart-topper “Elvira,” as well as “Bobbie Sue,” “Dream On,” “Thank God for Kids,” “American Made,” “I Guess It Never Hurts to Hurt Sometimes,” “Fancy Free,” “Gonna Take A Lot of River” and many others. The group has scored 12 gold albums, three platinum albums, one double-platinum album and one double-platinum single.
Sterban has become bit famous for his “oom-pa-pa-oom-pa-pa-maw-maw” bass solo in the Oak Ridge Boys’ 1981 smash hit, “Elvira.”
“The song was written by Dallas Frazier,” Sterban said. “He also recorded it. The song was probably recorded 10 times by various artists. Ron Chancey, our producer, it was his idea to have me sing that line. It was on the other recordings, but not as prominent.”
Now, because of hundreds of tour dates each year and interviews on radio and TV, Sterban is almost constantly asked to sing the “oom-pa-pa-oom-pa-pa-maw-maw” bass line.
“Very few days that go by that I don’t sing it,” he said.