The Oak Ridge Boys, from left, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban celebrate 40 years as a group.
By the time Richard Sterban gets on the phone, he’s running on fumes.
He’s had interviews all day, and frankly, he’s tired.
“I’m going to hop in the shower and take a nap after this,” he says, chuckling. “You really need to rest your voice at my age.”
It’s been a year of personal and professional milestones for Sterban. That age is now 70. He turned it this year. Recently, the grandfather found out that he’s soon to become a great-grandfather.
The man best known for the “Ba-oom, papa, oom, papa, mow, mow” line from “Elvira” is also marking an even more impressive achievement this year. He, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, and William Lee Golden, collectively known as the Oak Ridge Boys, are celebrating 40 years of being together as a group.
“My wife and I just celebrated 25 years, and I thought that was a big deal. For four guys like us to stay together for 40 years, in many ways, that’s just mind-boggling,” Sterban says. “I think if you asked any of the four of us 40 years ago if we’d still be doing this, and at a high level, I don’t think any of us would have believed it.”
When they perform at the Stranahan on Saturday night, they will be on their 24th annual Christmas tour. It’s almost become a tradition for the Oak Ridge Boys to be in Toledo around Christmas.
“We’ve been here on several occasions, and there’s a reason we keep coming back. We have great friends there, and great fans. That’s a big factor in us returning as often as we do,” Sterban says.
The show will have a familiar feel for the Oaks’ fan base. They will open with 40 to 45 minutes from their catalog of hits, Santa Claus will make an appearance for a few songs, the guys will tell stories of Christmas memories from rocking chairs in front of a fireplace, and the group will discuss the religious side of the holiday and perform some of their favorite Christmas classics.
What this will not be is a farewell performance.
“We have no plans to quit. We are still having fun doing this, still love getting on the stage every night. I enjoy every aspect of being an Oak Ridge Boy,” Sterban says.
Whenever the day comes that the group can no longer perform, it will end the career of one of the most iconic groups in American musical history. The Oak Ridge Boys have traveled the world, played for U.S. presidents, joined the Grand Ole Opry, and produced some of the most recognizable songs in history, including “Elvira” and “Thank God for Kids.”
“At this stage of my life, the thing I am most proud of is being able to look back on a very successful life, a very successful career. We as Oak Ridge Boys have made a real contribution — not only to country music, but American music in general,” Sterban says. “Over the years, we’ve been able to help a lot of people. When people come see us for two hours, we’re able to transport them into a zone. We take them away from their troubles and their cares. We’ve gotten so much mail over the years from people who we’ve helped. I get a great feeling of accomplishment when I look back over our accomplishments.”
What has made the accomplishments even more gratifying is sharing them with Allen, Bonsall, and Golden.
“Over the years, we’ve become best of friends. We’re closer to each other than a lot of members of our families,” Sterban says. “We all realized a long time ago that we need each other, so we pull together as a team. You really have to do that to last 40 years.”
The Oak Ridge Boys will be in concert at the Stranahan Theater on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ranging in price form $34.50-$49.50 are available at the box office, online at stranahantheater.org, or by calling 419-381-8851.
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