With a hit gospel album and their upcoming induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Oak Ridge Boys remain as busy as ever these days.
Together for more than 40 years, the legendary country quartet shows no signs of slowing down either.
“The fact is we still love what we’re doing and we’re still having fun,” said bass singer Richard Sterban.
“We look forward to seeing the fans and the audience. That’s a big part of what keeps us going. We do not have plans to retire and as far as the future goes, our health is the key. We’re not kids anymore. As long as the good Lord allows us to enjoy good health, we’re going to keep right on along.”
The first Big Barrel, which starts today with gates opening at 12:30 p.m., features a mix of new and veteran performers with Blake Shelton headlining tonight, Miranda Lambert Saturday and Carrie Underwood Sunday.
Iconic country artists such as Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard will also be a part of Big Barrel.
Mr. Sterban says the guys enjoy performing at festivals such as this one that mix the older with the newer performers.
“It’s fun to be on the same billing with the younger country artists who have been so successful,” said Mr. Sterban, 72, earlier this month by phone from his home in Nashville.
“It’s like the old guys competing with the younger guys. The younger fans treat us with such respect, it’s unbelievable. It really makes us feel great.”
The original Oak Ridge Boys started out in traditional country and gospel during World War II and went through numerous lineup changes in its early decades before Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden and Mr. Sterban took the helm in the 1960s and early 1970s and focused on tight vocal country harmonies.
They landed their first No. 1 song, “I’ll Be True to You,” in 1978, but a year before that Paul Simon asked the group to sing backup on his hit “Slip Slidin’ Away,” which helped open the door to the pop world for the group.
“Paul Simon called us and asked us if we would be willing to sing on his record,” Mr. Sterban recalled.
“Actually he called the (Country Music Association) first and they recommended us. He had previously gotten the black gospel group Dixie Hummingbirds to sing on ‘Loves Me Like a Rock’ and he wanted a white gospel group for this one.
“They flew us to New York City first class. I had never been in first class before. We worked on the record for two days and sang it over and over again until we got it right. It was an interesting experience.”
The Oaks’ biggest hit came with 1981’s “Elvira,” which became a crossover pop smash.
The song brought them one of their five Grammy Awards and went double Platinum.
To this day, Mr. Sterban says it’s a song the Oaks have to do in concert.
“Otherwise I think the audience would chase us all the way to the state border,” he joked.
The secret of the success of “Elvira” is pretty simple, he said.
“It’s just a song that makes you want to smile and sing along with,” Mr. Sterban said.
“To this day, it’s one of the most popular karaoke songs. People want to sing along to my ‘oom papa oom papa mau mau’ part. That’s the hook of the song but Joe Bonsall’s lead vocals are such a major part of it, too.”
Mr. Sterban recently wrote “From Elvis to Elvira,” a book which details his life growing up in South Jersey, singing in the Keystone Quartet with Mr. Bonsall in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area, becoming a backup singer for Elvis Presley and finding success with The Oak Ridge Boys.
He joined the Oaks in 1972 after spending about two years with J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, who sang with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
“J.D. Sumner’s nephew heard me sing and J.D. wanted to leave the group and get a younger bass singer to take his place,” Mr. Sterban said.
“So I moved to Nashville and sang with Elvis for a while.”
But when the Oaks came calling, Mr. Sterban couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“Here I was singing with The King on one of the biggest tours in the music business at the time and out of the clear blue, William Lee Golden called to ask if I wanted to be their bass singer,” Mr. Sterban said.
“Even though I was singing with Elvis, there was very little hesitation on my part. I had always been a big fan of The Oak Ridge Boys and I knew they had a lot of potential.
“I think history proves that I made a pretty good decision. If someone had told me then, that we would still be doing this 43 years later, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Along with “Elvira,” their string of hits include “Bobbie Sue,” “Trying to Love Two Women,” “Beautiful You,” “Fancy Free,” “I Guess It Never Hurts to Hurt Sometimes,” “Make My Life With You,” “Touch a Hand, Make a Friend,” and “It Takes a Little Rain (To Make Love Grow).”
The group’s 17 No. 1 hits, more than 40 albums, and sales in excess of 41 million units, has led The Oak Ridge Boys on the road to induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October.
The word came in March that they had finally been selected for inclusion in the “Modern Era Artist” category.
“Ever since we found about it, I’ve found it difficult to find the words to express how excited we are. It really is a big deal. There’s just no other way to put it.
“You look at the names on the list of folks who are already in the Hall of Fame and for us to join those names is tremendous.
“There are times when you wondered if it was ever going to happen. But thankfully the timeline wasn’t as important as the fact that it did happen and we’re certainly excited about that.”
The Oaks also are excited about their current album “Rock of Ages.” It’s the first time they have recorded an album of solely old hymns, which include songs such as the title track and “In the Garden.”
It debuted at No. 1 on the Nielsen SoundScan Southern Gospel chart when it entered wide release May 26 and hit as high as No. 8 on the Billboard Christian Albums list.
“It really turned out well,” Mr. Sterban said.
“We all grew up on this music as kids and was it a pleasure to revisit those childhood songs.”
Mr. Sterban said Sunday’s Big Barrel audience can expect a mix of country, gospel and patriotic tunes when The Oak Ridge Boys take the stage Sunday.
“It’s going to be a good night. I promise you,” he said.
The action starts today when gates open at 12:30 and The Bros. Landreth, an Americana band from Canada takes the Wildwood Stage, the smaller of the two stages at Big Barrel.
The Wildwood stage is to the right of the main stage, where The Pavilion was for Firefly.
The main stage opens at 2 p.m. with Drake White and The Big Fire.
They are an Alabama-based band that has opened for such musicians as Eric Church, Luke Bryan, Lynyrd Skynyrd,
Tyler Bryant and Channing Wilson.
Lynyrd Sknyrd closes the Wildwood Stage at 7 tonight. They will be preceded by veteran Billy Joe Shaver at 4:15 and Firefly performer Sturgil Simpson at 5:30.
Blake Shelton closes things out at 10:15 tonight on the main stage, which also will feature Chris Young and Cassadee Pope throughout the day today.
The Felice Brothers will play The Wildwood Stage at 5:10 p.m. Saturday. The legendary Loretta Lynn will grace The Wildwood Stage for a half-hour performance at 7:45 that night.
Miranda Lambert closes the main stage at 10:15 Saturday night. The main stage also will feature Gary Allan at 8:45 and Eric Paslay at 7:25. The Pennsylvania-based Born Sisters start the main stage at 2:45.
On Sunday, the Wildwood Stage ends the festival with a trio of veteran acts. The Del McCoury Band performs at 4:15 p.m. with the aforementioned Oak Ridge Boys at 5:30 and Merle Haggard at 7:15.
On the main stage, Carrie Underwood ends the festival starting at 10:15 p.m. Kacey Musgraves at 7:25 and Jake Owen at 8:45 lead up to Ms. Underwood.
Gates close at midnight each day. Three-day general admission passes cost $149 and are free for those 8 and younger. There will be no one-day passes sold.
For reserved seating in front of the Big Barrel Stage, which includes a souvenir seat, and access to the standing pit, the closest viewing area to the stage, three-day passes cost $499.
Camping options include Corral Club, which includes a private air-conditioned tent, RV packages and tent camping. Payment plans are available.
Organizers also will sell three-day festival and camping passes throughout the weekend. They will be available at the will-call location at Delaware Technical Community College in Dover.
For more information, visit bigbarrel.com, call (888) 512-SHOW, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firefly lost and found
While the Firefly Music Festival is but a memory for most of the 90,000 who attended last weekend’s affair, it’s probably still on the minds of many who lost items during the four days at the Woodlands of Dover International Speedway.
A website has been established with photos of items left behind and a way that you can claim them.
Visit here to check out all of the misplaced stuff, from IDs to licenses to phones to keys and a few other interesting finds.
Maybe you’ll find something you didn’t even know you lost.
New this weekend in theaters is the comedy sequel “Ted 2” and the family action-adventure movie “Max.”
On DVD and download starting Tuesday is Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart in “Get Hard” and the sci-fi film “Jupiter Ascending.”