Richard Sterban hardly requirements to recognize himself end the phone; the basement-low base he has actually used to great advantage through the Oak Ridge boys all these years is unmistakable. It’s nearly as identifiable as baritone william Lee Golden’s waist-long beard.
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Founded in the 1940s and also only newly inducted right into the nation Music room of Fame, the Oak Ridge Boys, ages 67 to 72, display no indications of slowing down. The 4 vocalists (Sterban, Golden, command Duane Allen and tenor Joe Bonsall) proceed to harmonize on the road, mixing gospel, their country hits and the occasional surprise (they covering the White Stripes, john Lee Hooker and the Allman Brothers).
We talked with Sterban recently in advancement of the group’s two mirrors Sunday at the Barns at wolf Trap.
Q: Has her voice constantly been that low?
A: The first singing that I ever before did, believe it or not, was together a boys soprano. I had actually a high voice until I remained in junior high school. In saturday grade ns was still singing tenor, and over the summer, between seventh grade and also eighth grade, my voice make a drastic, correct change. Ns went ago for mine eighth-grade year and also my choir teacher couldn’t believe the difference. She ended up placing me in the 2nd bass section, and obviously I’ve been there ever before since.
Q: Is it complicated to balance the gospel and country in the Oak Ridge boys repertoire?
A: It’s no that difficult. There’s something around gospel music and also country music that kind of go hand in hand. It really does. Ns think our fans would be disappointed if us did no revisit ours roots, so come speak, and pay tribute to wherein we came from, i beg your pardon is gospel music, so we do that on just around every show, and it simply comes natural for us.
Q: Were you mindful of the Oak Ridge Boys and also their background going earlier to the late 1940s prior to you join in 1972?
A: I to be a pan of the Oak Ridge Boys prior to I join the group. Climate for about two years before joining the Oak Ridge Boys, i sang through a group dubbed J.D. Sumner & the Stamps Quartet and also got come sing with Elvis for around a year and also a half of the time. So below I to be singing v the king of rock-and-roll, and also out the the clear blue, I obtained a call from wilhelm Lee Golden. The told me that their bass singer, Noel Fox, wanted to leave the road and also stay home. They want to recognize if I would certainly be interested in the job.
So i made a major decision in mine life — to leaving Elvis . . . And also join the Oak Ridge Boys due to the fact that that’s whereby I really want to be. Ns felt the team had a great deal that potential. Ns don’t think i realized in ~ the time just how much potential the group did have. Ns felt prefer we were going to walk on and also accomplish large things. Yet I don’t think that I ever before dreamed earlier then that it would certainly be as big as it ultimately became. I never dreamed that, because that example, us would end up in the nation Music hall of Fame.
Q: It seems choose you might have to be inducted right into the hall of fame previously than last year.
A: You might be right about that. A many of human being have asked about that. My answer to that is the the timeline is not the most crucial thing. The most essential thing is the we space in there, and will be in over there forever.
Q: Did human being question your sanity when you left Elvis?
A: People wondered about it. Castle said, “How can you leaving Elvis? How could you leave the king of rock-and-roll and join what ago then was pretty lot a nonentity?” It to be pretty interesting to sing through Elvis, don’t obtain me wrong, but I was strictly a elevator singer, standing in the dark, singing oohs and aaahs and also harmony parts, and also nobody realized who I to be or what ns was doing. My personal aspirations were beyond that, and I felt i could accomplish my objectives with the Oak Ridge Boys. Here we are, 43 years later — we’re going solid and we do not arrangement on retiring any type of time soon. Us love doing what we’re doing, we’re still having fun act this, and also we look forward every night to acquisition our music live come our fans.
Q: Has that been hard for the 4 of girlfriend to obtain along all these years?
A: Now that we are older, i think we obtain along better than as soon as we were younger. Once we to be younger we sort of obtained on each various other a small bit. I think we’re too old now to let small things bother us. We’re a lot an ext laid-back, and the friendship in between the four of us has grown over the years. And also we have a distinct bond. . . . And also if the great Lord over will enable us to experience an excellent health because that several an ext years, we’re walk to save doing it. We’re not youngsters anymore. However I think health and wellness is most likely the crucial to our future.
Q: You sang bass v the Stamps top top Elvis’s “Burning Love” and also “You Were always on my Mind” and were with the Oak Ridge boys on Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away.” Was that unexpected?
A: It was. It was the very first hit document that us were ever before on. Paul Simon had actually some success v a record prior to that, “Loves Me favor a Rock” with the Dixie Hummingbirds. Now rather of a black gospel group, he want a white gospel group, so he dubbed the Gospel Music Association and also they recommended us. He dubbed us and also it associated us paris to new York City. The flew united state up there very first class, the first time I had flown first class in mine life. In fact, we had to end up going 2 or three times until we finally got it right.
We didn’t get credited for being on the album. However I do remember gift in my car driving when that document came on, and also being in ~ a red light, and looking end to a automobile parked right beside me at the red light and wondering whether they were listening come the very same song that i was listening to on the radio. Because I wanted to roll down the home window and say, “Hey, that’s us on there!”
Q: Your greatest hit to be “Elvira.”
A: No question around that. To this day it’s one of the biggest selling solitary records to ever before be recorded in Nashville.
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Q: Why execute you think that is?
A: It’s a special song. Dallas Frazier composed the song, and also he had actually a hit through it, yet not a significant hit, and several other civilization recorded it, consisting of Kenny Rogers when he was with the first Edition. However I remember as soon as
I remember recording the song, the watch on the musicians’ faces, everybody was smilin,’ having a an excellent time. It simply felt prefer it was going to be a huge hit. But I don’t think we realized how big it was going to be till the very very first time we sang it in person. We were in ~ the opera house in Spokane, Washington, and we wanted to shot out some of the brand-new songs. So we threw a couple of in, in the center of the show, including “Elvira.” as soon as we go it, human being just walk crazy. We had actually to encore that song 4 or 5 times right in the middle of the show. They wanted to hear the over and over and also over again. And also then we included it at the finish of the show and sang it 3 or 4 times there, too. For this reason at the point, we knew us really did have actually something special. It’s ours signature song. We cannot execute a display without it.
Q: Was it her idea come vamp the bass line on that song?
A: It to be Ron’s idea because that me to execute that “oom-papa oom-papa mau mau” part. So ns just adjusted it to my way of act things, my layout of law things. And it turned out pretty well. If I have such a thing as a insurance claim to fame, it’s probably singing that line “oom-papa oom-papa mau mau.”
The Oak Ridge Boys march 20 at 2 and also 7 p.m. In ~ the Barns at wolf Trap, 1645 trap Rd., Vienna, Va. 703-255-1900. Wolftrap.org. $55.