Member of The Oak Ridge Boys talks to St. George News about band’s Christmas concert in Cedar City

Undated publicity photo of The Oak Ridge Boys, L-R: Richard Sterban, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and William Lee Golden. | Photo courtesy of The Oak Ridge Boys, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Oak Ridge Boys are coming to town to perform their popular Christmas concert on Dec. 13.

The Oak Ridge Boys, as depicted on the cover of their 2018 album “17th Avenue Revival.” | Photo courtesy of The Oak Ridge Boys, St. George News / Cedar City News

For one night only, the Country Music Hall of Fame musicians will take the stage at the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus, as one of two Utah stops on their 29th annual Christmas tour across the United States. The Dec. 13 event marks the group’s first concert in Southern Utah since their sold-out appearance at SUU in 2013. They’ll also appear in Kamas on Dec. 14 before making their way to Colorado. Click here for a full list of tour dates and ticket information.

Starting in December, KONY Country 99.9 will be giving away free Oak Ridge Boys tickets each morning during Marty and Amy’s morning show. Listen to 99.9 FM for more details.

Fans attending this year’s show, called “Shine the Light on Christmas,” are in for a treat, band member Richard Sterban recently told Cedar City News by phone from Nashville.

“It’s almost two shows for the price of one if I could put it that way,” Sterban said as he outlined the evening’s schedule.

“We come in at in the very beginning and for about 45 minutes, we do our regular music, including our hits,” added Sterban, whose deep bass voice provides the signature “oom poppa” refrain on the quartet’s popular hit “Elvira.”

“You will definitely hear me do, ‘Giddy up, oom poppa, omm poppa, mow mow.’ That will definitely happen. And not only ‘Elvira,’ but ‘Thank God for Kids’ and ‘Y’all Come Back Saloon.’”

“We’ll also throw in a few songs from our latest album, ‘17th Avenue Revival,’ produced by Dave Cobb,” Sterban said.

“Then after, after that 45-minute segment, we then take an intermission and then come back and do a complete Christmas show where we cover just about every aspect of Christmas,” he said. “We cover the romantic side of Christmas and the fun side of Christmas.”

“Santa Claus comes out and we have a lot of fun with him on stage. Santa even goes out into the audience and interacts with the kids, and so the show is very kid-friendly and we encourage parents to bring their families and their kids.”

Logo for The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Shine the Light on Christmas” tour. | Image courtesy of The Oak Ridge Boys, St. George News / Cedar City News

After Santa leaves the stage, Sterban said one of the highlights of the evening will take place when he and fellow band members Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and William Lee Golden will perform their highly popular and nostalgic “rocking chair segment.”

“We sit in front of the fireplace and each man takes turns talking just for a few minutes about childhood Christmas memories and what Christmas means to us individually. And as we go into that segment, we sing some of the traditional Christmas carols between each of the little talks. It’s very much a down-home kind of segment and it gives the audience a chance to get to know the four Oak Ridge Boys just a little bit better.”

“And then after that, we close out the concert with a series of songs that talk about what we consider to be the true meaning of Christmas. Of course, we know that is the birth of Jesus. That’s something that’s very important to us. And we know it’s important to our fans as well. And so we close the concert on a very spiritual note, a sacred note.”

“The whole thing is a total package of great family entertainment. It’s a great family show, it really is. It’s a great way for families to spend time together around Christmas.”

Sterban, who has been with The Oak Ridge Boys for 46 years, said the band is working on a new album and is already making plans for next year’s 30th annual Christmas tour.

The band’s current album, “17th Avenue Revival,” pays homage to the gospel music that inspired so many country and rock musicians, said Sterban, who wrote about his early days on tour with Elvis Presley in his memoir titled “From Elvis to Elvira: My Life on Stage.”

“Some of my fondest memories of being with Elvis involve singing gospel music,” Sterban told Cedar City News. “It seemed like almost every time we were on the road with Elvis, he’d try to find a piano and he’d want us to gather around the piano with him and sing gospel songs. He loved it. He especially loved the black spirituals.”

Undated publicity photo of The Oak Ridge Boys, L-R: William Lee Golden, Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen and Richard Sterban. | Photo courtesy of The Oak Ridge Boys, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Just this past year, we worked with Dave Cobb again, and he took us down some very similar roads musically,” Sterban said as he recalled the day Cobb first pitched the idea to the band.

“He said, ‘I want you guys to think of Elvis. I want you to think of maybe Jerry Lee Lewis and that old rockabilly Memphis sound … and maybe think of Ray Charles and maybe some of those old blues guys. What was it that made all those guys so special, and same thing that makes you guys special. They were all raised in church. The first thing they ever did was gospel music.’ So he said, ‘What I want to do is not necessarily an all-gospel project. A lot of it will be gospel.’ He said the most important thing is, we want to tap into that feeling of going to an old-time revival meeting.”

One of the new album’s most popular songs is the band’s cover of the Brandy Clark hit “Pray to Jesus.”

“We heard that song and we really wanted to sing it, but (Cobb) wanted to change it up a little bit. Like I said, he added that boogie woogie kind of rockabilly kind of piano sound to it.”

“I can’t say enough about Dave Cobb and how he is almost a genius. He really is. He’s a master of taking that old sound and marrying it with today’s new sound.”

Another popular song on the new album is “A Brand New Star,” which Sterban said has resonated with many listeners, especially those dealing with the recent loss of a loved one.

“In this day of social media, we get instant response from many fans. Since that song has been out, it’s amazing the number of people that song has affected. A lot of people are going through difficult times and experiencing death in their families, and that song is so uplifting. It’s a very special song.”

Although the Oak Ridge Boys have been performing together for nearly five full decades, they have no plans to stop or even slow down, Sterban added.

“We’re still having fun doing what we’re doing and even though we’re not kids, we do not plan to retire anytime, as long as long as the good Lord above lets us continue to enjoy good health. We’re going to keep doing this because it’s what we love doing.”

Event details

  • What: The Oak Ridge Boys live in concert, “Shine the Light on Christmas.”
  • When: Thursday, Dec. 13, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Southern Utah University’s America First Event Center, 152 S. 800 West, Cedar City.
  • Tickets: $26 for adults, $16 for students of all ages. Purchase tickets online at the SUU Online Ticket Office, or by calling 435-586-7872.
  • Details: For more information about the concert, contact the SUU Alumni and Community Relations office at 435-586-7777 or email alumni@suu.edu. For more information about The Oak Ridge Boys, visit their website.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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