•The band will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this fall
•The group started as the Oak Ridge
Richard Sterban just wanted to go home.
The Oak Ridge Boys had just finished performing at the Grand Ole Opry, and the bass singer couldn’t understand why the band was being called into a dressing-room meeting. An executive from the Country Music Association was there and thanked the band for playing CMA’s music festival.
As almost an afterthought, she told the group they had been chosen for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“I had to fight back tears,” Sterban says.
The band, which plays Saturday, April 25, at Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville, will be inducted in the “Modern Era Artist” category this fall, along with Jim Ed Brown and The Browns and musician Grady Martin.
The Oak Ridge Boys have a history in country music that goes back to World War II, when the original group — known as the Oak Ridge Quartet — performed in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where the atomic bomb was being developed. In the mid-1950s, the band was in Time magazine as one of the nation’s biggest gospel groups. By the 1970s, it had its classic lineup — Sterban, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Joe Bonsall— and was crossing over into the pop and rock world.
The band even backed singer Paul Simon on his 1976 track, “Slip Slidin’ Away.”
Sterban joined the band in 1972 and left a good gig — playing with Elvis Presley— to do it. There was little hesitation, he says, although looking back, he didn’t fully realize how much potential the group had.
“We just had a knack for picking great songs,” he says.
That includes the novelty song “Elvira,” which won a Grammy and was No. 1 on the Billboard country charts (and top five on the pop charts) in 1981.
The band still remains active. The Oak Ridge Boys spend about 150 days on the road and continue to put out new material, Sterban says.
“One of our favorite things to do is go into the studio and create new music,” he says.
The band’s latest, “Rock of Ages,” is a collection of hymns and gospel tunes that was released in March under an exclusive arrangement with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Meaning you can only get it there. It will be available everywhere in May.