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Oak Ridge Boys are coming to town

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Lead singer Duane Allen concentrates on a recording in one of his favorite Middle Tennessee studios.
The deep bass voice that sings “oom poppa mow mow” in “Elvira” belongs to Richard Sterban, who says he loves baseball – especially the Nashville Sounds and the Vandy Commodores.
Baritone William Lee Golden has made the Oaks almost as famous for his picturesque, long-flowing silver beard and hair as for their catchy, harmonious tunes including mega-hit “Elvira.”
The Oak Ridge Boys will be sponsored at the Wilson County Fair by Tony Bates Ford. From left are lead singer Duane Allen, tenor Joe Bonsall, baritone William Lee Golden and bass Richard Sterban.
Tenor Joe Bonsall likes to relax and pick his banjo, signed “To Joe” by Sonny Osborne. Bonsall’s wife and cats aren’t fans of his playing, “so I go out on the porch or to the farm where only the coyotes can hear.”

Oom poppa mow mow! The Oak Ridge Boys of "Elvira" fame are coming to Lebanon next week. They'll be appearing at the Wilson County Fair on Tuesday, Aug. 23 - courtesy of Tony Bates Ford, on West Main Street.

The Oaks call Hendersonville home, so it won't be a long drive. The country superstars with 25 Number One hits all live in the beautiful, growing "city by the lake."

But they still stay in the thick of things. In July, they teamed up with Tanya Tucker to co-host a benefit concert for the families of the five police officers gunned down by a sniper in Dallas.

Often described as one of the "longest lasting acts" in country music, the gospel-singing Oak Ridge Boys first broke out as a top country act with their hit "Y'All Come Back Saloon" in 1977.

'Cash encouraged'

A fellow Hendersonville resident and friend of the Oaks was the late Johnny Cash - who encouraged them early in their country career.

When they switched from gospel to country, "'Y'All Come Back Saloon" started paying the bills and "Elvira" (the group's 1981 mega-hit) bought us all our houses," lead singer Duane Allen told The Post.

Along the way, they also hit big with "Bobbie Sue," "Leaving Louisiana (In The Broad Daylight)," "My Baby Is American Made" and "You're The One (In a Million)" - among others.

And baritone William Lee Golden has made the Oaks almost as famous for his picturesque, long-flowing silver beard and hair as for their catchy, harmonious tunes.

Bass loves baseball

But playing ball and watching it is a favorite pastime of Richard Sterban, the deep bass voice that sings "oom poppa mow mow" in "Elvira."

For about 30 years, Sterban was part owner of the Nashville Sounds - and he's still their "Official Team Ambassador."

The bass singer says he loves going to Sounds and Vandy games whenever he's at home in Middle Tennessee - but he was a little disappointed when the Commodores lost the national championship last year.

Still, he says he really enjoys time at home, where he can relax.

"The main thing I do is spend time with my family, do things together," Sterban describes. "My youngest daughter is going to college at Western Kentucky University. It's only 45 minutes away. Family is very important to me."

Oaks' Lebanon connection

A local connection that Sterban says has been good for the group is Lebanon-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, which sells the Oaks' CDs in all the restaurant chain's gift shops - including the first one in Lebanon.

The Oaks haven't forgotten their gospel roots at all. Their 2015 release, the all-gospel "Rock of Ages," was available at Cracker Barrel.

Each of the Oak Ridge Boys has special things they enjoy doing whenever they're at home in Middle Tennessee. Golden loves taking pictures - or painting them when he has time.

"But I'm a slow painter," he admits. "I've done a lot of painting on tour, but it takes four or five nights to finish. I use acrylics because they dry in time to move on."

'Wake me at sunrise'

Recently, Golden says, he has mostly switched to the camera. "I take photos of the sunset on Old Hickory Lake."

His favorite pictures are ones of the clouds reflecting the sunset on the lake - but he also takes photos on the road.

"I had the driver of our bus wake me up at sunrise to take pictures in the Canadian Rockies," he quips.

Mustang filly rescued

One of Duane Allen's hobbies is a farm he owns at Cages Bend - where he raises cattle, burros and mustangs.

"A few years ago we heard about a man who had adopted some wild mustangs and he didn't take care of them," Allen explains. "I don't know if he didn't know how or didn't care - but he didn't take care of them."

Allen brought the animals to his farm - and with help from a veterinarian, they soon were healthy again. The worst was a little filly.

"She had a halter grown into her face. She was also starved," Allen recalls sadly. "But now she's friendly and tame."

Most of the mustangs can be ridden - but not the filly. "She still has a problem breathing," Allen describes. "But she's beautiful - and she follows me all over the farm."

While there's no house at the farm, Allen says it's still his favorite get-away place. "My father was a very religious man," the singer recalls. "He believed the greatest honor was to live from the ground. He raised us all to keep the Earth clean."

Sang for Jim Ed Brown

Allen says his father taught him one other thing that he has learned to live by as well. "Son, you will find it easy to sing when people applaud," Allen's father said. "But sometimes when you have talent, you have to sing for a friend when you don't feel like singing."

Allen faced that challenge when his friend Jim Ed Brown died. The Oak Ridge Boys sang at the funeral in Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, the longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Tenor Joe Bonsall says his favorite pastime is to sit out on his porch and play his banjo.

"I love my banjo, but the wife and the cats, not so much," he explains with a chuckle. So, to avoid annoying them with his picking and strumming, "I go out on the porch or to the farm where only the coyotes can hear. They don't seem to mind."

Banjo signed by Sonny

Bonsall says he knows he'll never be a pro with the banjo, so he can relax and just play for fun - but his banjo is signed "To Joe" by bluegrass legend Sonny Osborne.

A Tennessee Titans fan, the tenor has also authored and published several books, including his most recent "On the Road with the Oak Ridge Boys."

He quips that having spent 43 years with the quartet, he's become quite an expert on the subject.

His favorite of all the books he's written is the one he wrote about his parents, "G.I. Joe and Lillie."

Both his parents served in the Army during World War II - and the book is a tribute to them.

'Couldn't drag me away'

Bonsall expresses the opinion of all four Oak Ridge Boys when he says they're "all about" Middle Tennessee.

"This is home. A team of wild horses couldn't drag me away!"

Let's give them a real Volunteer State welcome when Tony Bates Ford brings them to the Wilson County Fair Tuesday night in the big arena - a real "late night benediction at the y'all come back saloon."

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