For more than 40 years, The Oak Ridge Boys have entertained countless fans across the country, sung for numerous U.S. Presidents, and earned every award in the industry, including their upcoming induction into the prestigious Country Music Hall of Fame. From their roots in southern gospel to their chart-topping career in country music, the Oaks have become one of America’s most beloved music groups.
“When the lights dim, the theme music begins to play, and our band members begin to take up their positions, it’s just as exciting today as it has always been throughout our long history,” says Joe Bonsall, tenor of the group and author of On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys. “We know that people have gathered to hear us sing our songs, and we never take one person in the audience for granted.”
The Oaks got their start back in the 1940s when a group from Knoxville, Tennessee began performing country and gospel music in the town of Oak Ridge, where the atomic bomb was being developed. Over the years, the group gained popularity and soon appeared on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. From there, members came and went but in 1973, the current group of Bonsall, William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, and Richard Sterban began singing together, and the rest is history.
“Through all these many miles we’ve traveled and everything we’ve been through together for more than 40 years, we haven’t really changed much as we’ve gotten older,” says Bonsall. “Singing, doing things right, honoring God and families in our lives… these things are still what really matter the most to each of us.”
In On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys, Bonsall takes readers on a backstage tour of life in the country music industry and the multi-faceted career of the Oaks. Through colorful stories and a touch of nostalgia, Bonsall shares about the history behind the group, introduces readers to each of the Oaks, and gives readers a front row seat to what it’s like to travel the country in a tour bus equipped with lounges, technology, and multiple television sets. He also shares numerous stories of legendary fans (like 100-year-old Addaline Huff) as well as celebrities the Oaks have sung for and rubbed shoulders with throughout the years, including country stars like Garth Brooks and Kenny Rogers and Presidents from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush.
“When we’re asked about our most memorable moments as Oak Ridge Boys, we often recall the honor of singing in the White House and our friendships with many of our nation’s presidents,” says Bonsall. “And why not? It’s simply the truth that these events have provided us with some of our greatest memories.”
Over the decades, the Oaks have recorded and sung hundreds of songs, with their runaway hit, “Elvira,” racing to the top of the charts in 1981. “Elvira” crossed over into the pop market and the song won every applicable music award. The Oaks even found themselves at one time singing it with the prestigious Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Today, contemporary groups are still singing “Elvira,” even on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
“Our little song has passed down through the generations,” says Bonsall. “Perhaps it’s a big reason The Oak Ridge Boys are still around. Our music, our shows, and our own American spirit have been passed down from grandparents to parents to young couples and even on to their children. We see them all at our shows—still singing ‘Elvira’ with the Boys!”