The Oak Ridge Boys haven't been boys for a very long time, but that isn't stopping the vocal quartet from soldiering on as one of country music's steadfast superpowers. Evolving from a Southern gospel group founded during World War II, the Oaks lineup gelled in 1973 with lead singer Duane Allen, tenor Joe Bonsall, baritone William Lee Golden and bass Richard Sterban. The foursome has sold more than 41 million records, racked up scores of awards and conquered the charts with hits like “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue” and “American Made.”
All beyond age 70, some with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the singers remain together, still devoted to creating music and performing. On a break during their current tour, Bonsall talked about the band's fraternal alliance, love of singing and new ElderFraud partnership with AARP and the Department of Justice. (The quartet also discussed their passion for fighting fraud on Rural America Live with AARP, on RFD-TV, which you can view on aarp.org.)
From our talk with Bonsall:
The Oaks just won't act their age
I'm the youngest and I'm almost 72. We're the hardest-working act in show business. We do about 150 dates a year not counting shows at the Grand Old Opry. We took a three-week break after a 31-day Christmas tour and we're back on the road. It goes on and on. We don't play the arenas like we used to. We play beautiful theaters, performing art centers, county fairs, country festivals, the big casinos. There's no stopping the Oak Ridge Boys. There's no quit in any of us.
Every man's on board, physically and psychologically
God's been good to us. It's not that we haven't had our aches and pains, but we've got good health. Everyone is forward thinking. It's never, “How do we slow it down?” Our thinking is, “How do we do it better?” It only takes one guy to say, “I'm done,” but we all love doing this. I can't imagine the Oak Ridge Boys not singing. We don't know how to do anything else.
Rigors of the road? Not when you're cruising in a customized Prevost bus
We have a big beautiful private bus. None of us have ever minded the road. The less flying we have to do, the better. If we can wake up when we want to wake up, that keeps us on an even keel.