Oak Ridge Boys embarking on 29th holiday tour
Richard Sterban, the bass voice of the Oak Ridge Boys, was touring with Elvis Presley when he played the biggest arenas of his career in the early 1970s.
By the middle of the '70s, Sterban had returned to those same arenas, this time as one of the four members of the Oak Ridge Boys. In the ensuing 46 years, he's been part of Country Music Association Awards, Dove Awards, Grammy Awards and the induction of the band into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2000) and the Country Music Hall of Fame (2015).
Oak Ridge Boys
WHEN — 8 p.m. Nov. 14 & 15
WHERE — The Mansion Theatre, 189 Expressway Lane in Branson
COST — $46 & up
INFO — 417-385-1118, themansiontheatre.com
But ask Sterban his favorite Christmas memory, an appropriate question as the Oak Ridge Boys prepare for their 29th annual holiday tour, and he's very much the boy next door.
Sterban grew up in Fairview, a New Jersey township not far from Camden. He's 75 now, so his Christmas memories are from the late 1940s and early 1950s.
"My little town had a contest every year at Christmas time and awarded prizes for the best decorated house," he recalls. "People really got into this contest in a big way! Christmas lights were everywhere imaginable -- in all the public areas, not just on the individual homes. The whole village was aglow with Christmas lights.
"We would get in the car quite often, my parents, my brother, my sister and myself, and drive all over, just looking at Christmas lights. It was a very special time. We did it several times a year for several years, and it became a Christmas tradition. I think we were closer as a family because of it. It's one of my fondest memories."
Sterban, along with bandmates Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and William Lee Golden, shares those memories as part of the annual Oak Ridge Boys Christmas show Nov. 14-15 in Branson. The "rocking chair segment" -- and yes, the chairs did come from Cracker Barrel -- puts the four men in front of a fireplace to chat with each other about the reason for the season.
"Christmas is my favorite time of year," says Allen, the lead singer, "I love the positive things about the season. .... the joy, happiness, giving, sharing, time with family and gifts. The beautiful lights and decorations. Christmas music. Special food. And most of all the true meaning, which, of course, is celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. [And] every year I look forward to taking our Christmas tour all over the USA."
The show includes a mixture of traditional and contemporary songs -- religious, romantic and fun, Sterban says -- most of them from the Oak Ridge Boys' seven best-selling Christmas CDs.
"I think our stage show is one of the reasons for our continuity," Sterban muses. "We're still having fun doing this. We love what we do. Getting on stage and bringing our music to people is still what we live for."
It's been a collectively long and happy life. Sterban is 75, as is Allen. Bonsall is "the baby," Sterban says, at 70, and Golden is the "senior citizen" at 79.
"But we're all still going strong," he says. "We're all experiencing pretty good health -- considering how old we are! -- and we plan to continue doing what we're doing. We're already closing in on 100 days booked for next year -- we usually do about 150 on the road -- and from now until Christmas, we are slammed."
Still, although Christmas is a big part of the Oak Ridge Boys' business, all four of them continue to take the commitment to home and family seriously. They all live in Hendersonville, Tenn., outside of Nashville, and they'll be home for Thanksgiving, then on the road until Dec. 23.
"But we always make it a point to be home for Christmas," Sterban says.