Pictured are The Oak Ridge Boys, who perform at Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts for two shows Friday. Photo provided.
Pictured are The Oak Ridge Boys, who perform at Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts for two shows Friday. Photo provided.
Bass singer Richard Sterban does most of the telephone interviews for the legendary country band The Oak Ridge Boys.
Wednesday, his interview with the Times-Union was the seventh phone interview of the day. He said he tries to keep his interviews to days when the group doesn’t have a show because talking affects the voice quite a bit.
And in his 45 years with The Oak Ridge Boys, he’s done a lot of singing and talking. In the interview this week, he talked about his decades with the band, highlights of their journey and the future.
“I do remember the day I joined. It was in October 1972. I was so excited, but nervous because I wanted to join. I had no idea, none of us had any idea, that 45 years later, we would still be doing this and at this level. The Good Lord blessed us,” Sterban said.
Through the years, he said they’ve had some hit songs, a great manager who guided their careers and a great song man who helped them find the right songs.
“There’s no substitute for hit songs in the music business,” Sterban said.
The Oak Ridge Boys perform at 6 and 8:30 p.m. March 17 at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts.
Along with Sterban, The Oak Ridge Boys includes William Lee Golden, Duane Allen and Joe Bonsall, and they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015. Sterban said that was the culmination of their long career.
The Hall of Fame includes legends like Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. “For us to be a part of that group, it’s hard to find the words. We’re humbled. The only thing that comes close to that was when we became members of the Grand Ole Opry. It was a pretty emotional thing,” Sterban said.
One of the group’s biggest songs – which has become their signature song – is the 1981 hit “Elvira.”
“It seems like we’ve sang it a thousand times a year,” Sterban said. “We can’t do a show without it. It’s still the largest selling single album to be recorded in Nashville. To this very day, it’s still a top song in karaoke bars. After all these years, people still get up on their feet and dance along when we sing it. It’s just a happy song.”
Another happy moment for the foursome occurred in June 2016 when they performed on the CMT Awards with Blake Shelton.
“It was one of the most exciting things to happen to us,” Sterban recalled.
Shelton contacted the band and asked if they would record a song, “Doing It To Country Songs,” with him for his latest album. The Boys immediately said yes. Shelton flew in for the recording session with the group. A few weeks before the CMA music festival, Shelton again contacted them and asked if they would perform “Doing It To Country Songs” with him on the awards show. Again, The Oak Ridge Boys immediately said yes.
“It was Blake’s idea to put ‘Elvira’ on the end. That was one of the most exciting parts of the show,” Sterban stated, recalling how other country artists like Carrie Underwood got up and were singing along and dancing to “Elvira.” “It got us a whole lot of attention.”
Also last year, Sterban said they released a gospel album titled “Oak Ridge Rock of Ages” that featured old hymns the four group members grew up listening to. One song on the project wasn’t a hymn, but a duet with Merle Haggard called “Sweet Jesus.” They didn’t record it in the studio together, but Sterban said it sounds like they did.
“We were so honored to sing with him before Merle died,” Sterban said. Over the years, The Oak Ridge Boys have won 10 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, including Country Song of the Year for “Sweet Jesus,” and Sterban said they were glad they could share that honor with Haggard.
As far as working with any other artists, Sterban said, “I don’t know if we have a bucket list, but I don’t know if we’d turn someone down. We’d be open minded, within reason.”
The Oak Ridge Boys are going back into the recording studio in July, Sterban said. Once again, they will be working with David Cobb, a hot producer in Nashville. Cobb has worked with other artists like Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell. Sterban said they worked with him six years ago on their album “The Boys Are Back.”
“He wanted to do a project with us. He took us down some roads we had never been down before. We covered ‘Seven Nation Army’ from the White Stripes,” Sterban recalled, and that cover was great for them. It got The Oak Ridge Boys some attention.
The album the group will be working with Cobb on this summer has no title yet. Sterban said it’s in the early stages, and The Oak Ridge Boys will just allow Cobb to take them where he wants to go.
“We’re listening to songs. We haven’t made any decisions. The next step is to meet with Cobb. We have studio time scheduled for July,” Sterban said, estimating a new album could be out in 2018.