“What we are are four guys who are so thankful that we’re still able to get up on a stage and sing for our fans, and we are always going to do our best to put on a good show.”
That’s what Richard Sterban, a longtime member of the Oak Ridge Boys, said earlier this week in an interview with The Post-Intelligencer ahead of next week’s appearance by the legendary group in Paris.
Sterban, speaking from Nashville, said the gospel/country/pop/Americana group is excited to be coming to Henry County as the opening act in this year’s Tennessee River Jam.
The Oak Ridge Boys will be performing at 6 p.m. Thursday in downtown Paris, on the north side of the courthouse lawn, in a free show.
Sterban, who has been with the group since 1972, will be joined by fellow members Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and William Lee Golden, the same core four performers who carried the group to great heights and have remained in the lineup since 1973 (except for an eight-year period from 1987-93 when Golden left the group).
Coincidentally, the Oak Ridge Boys also have a new album being released today. It’s called “Front Porch Singin’” and has a mixture of new country and old gospel songs. The first single is called “Love, Light and Healing,” a nod to the group’s aim to help its audience get through difficult times — such as the COVID-19 pandemic — with a positive message.
“We’re just now starting to get busy again,” Sterban said. “We’ve only played a handful of dates since March 2020 (when the pandemic hit the country).
“Traditionally, we’ve been a group that has traveled a lot, toured a lot. We missed what we do because we feel what we do best is to perform live for our fans.”
The Oaks, as many of their fans call them, suffered during the outbreak like other businesses — they had no income, yet were continuing to take care of their employees and band members, paying their health insurance, etc.
“We were able to be home more with our families, so that part was good,” he said. “But we were really glad to get back in the studio.”
The new LP stemmed from an idea producer Dave Cobb had when attending one of the group’s Christmas shows. During those shows, the four singers sit in rocking chairs as though they were on a front porch and just talk about songs they like.
“There’s an informal feeling there that we and Dave wanted to capture on record,” Sterban said.
The album is available for downloads and there will be vinyl copies released as well. In fact, Sterban said the Cracker Barrel chain of stores is doing a promotion with the group — thanks in part to the Cracker Barrel concept of front porch rocking chairs — and will have the album available there.
EXCITED FOR STAGE SHOWS
But the live shows are what the group is really excited about.
“This is what we live for. We try to help people with our music. Hopefully, it’s helpful and healing for our audience to hear us perform in a positive way,” Sterban said.
While “Elvira” — a huge country hit that was also a crossover pop smash in 1981 — is the Oak Ridge Boys’ signature song, Sterban said his personal favorite is probably “Thank God for Kids,” which was originally included on one of their Christmas albums.
Sterban said he loves the way Golden can take the lyric of “Thank God for Kids” and communicate the feeling of it to the audience.
“We’ll be doing that song, and we can look out in the crowd and see people holding hands and hugging their kids,” he said.
Sterban has another reason to be excited right now, in addition to the new album and the resumption of tour dates.
A huge baseball fan, Sterban used to be a part owner of the Nashville Sounds minor league team. He’s also a devoted fan of Vanderbilt University’s team, and attended last weekend’s NCAA regional tournament in Nashville. Vandy is playing East Carolina in the first game of a super regional today in Nashville.
“I love baseball. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten to know (VU coach) Tim Corbin, in fact my wife and I have had dinner with Coach Corbin and his wife. I also got to know Dansby Swanson (now with the Atlanta Braves) pretty well when he was at Vanderbilt,” Sterban said.
He said the Oak Ridge Boys have about 10 paid dates coming up in the next few weeks, and then will be very busy at holiday time. They’re booked to appear for 31 out of 32 nights leading up to Christmas at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville.