GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - After four decades of singing together, The Oak Ridge Boys show no sign of slowing down.They've produced three new CDs in the past year, and have embarked on a new tour, with a stop in Grand Junction Friday, Feb. 22, at the Avalon Theatre."We enjoy taking our music live to our fans. It's part of what keeps us going. That, and the fact that we love what we do - it's a major factor in our longevity," bass singer Richard Sterban said.The original group started out as The Oak Ridge Quartet in Knoxville, Tenn., performing both country and gospel music. They began performing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1945, and by the mid-1950s, the group was featured in Time magazine as one of the top gospel groups in the nation.Members have come and gone since that original quartet, but for 40 years the group has been comprised of lead singer Duane Allen, who joined in 1966; baritone William Lee Golden (the one with the long white beard), the longest member since 1965; tenor Joe Bonsall who became an Oak Ridge Boy in 1973; and Sterban, who joined in 1972."We're a vocal group; we're strictly singers," Sterban said. "The band plays behind us. We concentrate on the vocals."Based in Hendersonville, just outside of Nashville, The Oak Ridge Boys tour 150 days a year - perhaps more this year being that "this happens to be a special tour, our anniversary year - 40 years of being together as a foursome," Sterban said.The group has had a string of hits over the years, including country-pop song "Elvira," and songs like "Bobbie Sue," "Dream On," "Thank God For Kids," "American Made," "I Guess It Never Hurts To Hurt Sometimes," "Fancy Free," and "Gonna Take A Lot Of River." The Oak Ridge Boys have garnered 12 gold, three platinum, and one double-platinum album - plus one double-platinum single. More than a dozen songs became national number one singles, and more than 30 were top 10 hits.Concert-goers can expect to hear "Elvira" and other well-known songs at the Grand Junction concert."We'll do as many of the hits as we possibly can, and a gospel song or two, and, we're patriotic guys - we'll honor our troops," Sterban said. "In general, it'll be a great night, family entertainment."The group branched out from its gospel/country roots when, in 1977, the quartet sang back-up for Paul Simon's "Slip Slidin' Away." The Boys have also recorded with George Jones, Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bill Monroe, Ray Charles and Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter.About a month ago, the four singers serenaded President George H.W. Bush over the telephone when they learned he was ill and in the hospital.They sang "Elvira," by request, followed by "his favorite hymn 'Amazing Grace,'" Sterban said. Bush was released from intensive care the following day, Sterban said."We've always felt music has healing powers," Sterban said. The group's new CDs include "It's Only Natural," a Christmas music album titled "Christmas Time's A-Coming," and "Back Home Again."The latter is a "gospel-flavored CD," that also includes country songs such as the title song by John Denver, Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors," and "Why Me Lord" by Kris Kristofferson, Sterban said. The band includes Don Carr on lead guitar, drummer and percussionist Chris Golden, Jeff Douglas on guitar and dobro, Rex Wiseman playing fiddle, pedal steel, guitar or mandolin, keyboardist Ron Fairchild, and Scotty Simpson on bass guitar.
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