The Oak Ridge Boys are performing Oct. 20 in Winder and somewhere down the set list is “Elvira,” the 1981 song that was the group’s monster hit.
More than three decades have passed, but the group’s bass singer, Richard Sterban, has a knack for remembering those golden years.
As he recalls, the group’s record producer Ron Chancey was meeting with them one day.
“He played us Dallas Frazier’s version of ‘Elvira.’ He’s the guy that wrote the song,” Sterban said recently by telephone from his home in Hendersonville, Tenn.
The guys liked the song and decided to use it in an upcoming concert.
“I don’t think even then we realized how special that song was until the very first time we did the song in person. It was in Spokane, Wash.,” he said. “When we did that song the place went crazy. I mean we had to encore it three or four times.”
The Oak Ridge Boys continued to get a rousing response for the song on this West Coast tour. Back home in Nashville, they cut the record that eventually went platinum.
Expect to hear the “oom poppa omm poppa mow mow” in Winder at their concert in the Innovation Amphitheatre. The concert begins at 7 p.m.
“We’ll do ‘Elvira,’ of course. There’s no doubt about it. We’ll do ‘Thank God for Kids’ and ‘The Y’all Come Back Saloon’ — our first hit,” he said. “We’ll do some gospel music, especially in the state of Georgia. That’s gospel music country.”
Sterban joined the band in 1972 when The Oak Ridge Boys were strictly a gospel quartet. The group’s rise to country music stardom is a ride Sterban recounts in his 2012 memoir “From Elvis to Elvira.”
“It’s really my personal story,” said the man, who before joining the group sang with J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet. For more than a year they were the backup for Elvis Presley, the king of rock n’ roll.
“When people find out I used to sing with Elvis, they want to hear some Elvis stories,” he said. But Sterban said he left this job when Oak Ridge member William Golden called asking if he wanted to join the group as their bass singer was leaving. Some questioned the decision to leave the Elvis tour, but Sterban said time has proven he was right.
Years later he met Elvis again in Las Vegas.
“One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received in my life was I remember Elvis pulling me aside and asking me if there was anything he could do to get me back,” he said.
In addition to Elvis, Sterban is forever grateful for country music legend Johnny Cash.
When Oak Ridge was a struggling group, they had once gathered in a room with Cash.
“There is something special about the four of you guys. I want you guys to find a way to stay together,” he remembers Cash saying.
A few years later, they won the Country Music Association award for Vocal Group of the Year. When they hurried up on stage to accept the award, they embraced Cash, the show’s host.
“I’ll never forget. He said, ‘See fellows, I told you so,’” Sterban said.
The tale of The Oak Ridge Boys is one that hinges on the songs they embraced over the years. Take the year 1977.
“That’s when we had our first country hit, ‘The Y’all Come Back Saloon.’ I remember listening to the demo of that song in Ron Chancey’s office and thinking this could be a hit record,” Sterban said.
“It peaked out at No. 2 for three weeks and the reason it couldn’t get to No. 1 is because there was a song by The Kendalls called ‘Heaven’s Just a Sin Away,’” Sterban said.
But the song “paved the way for like the next 15 years,” he said.
The Oak Ridge Boys continue to tour across the country, bringing new life to the songs that built their career.
“We encourage parents to bring their kids to the show. I can speak for all the Oak Ridge Boys. I can tell you we’ll do our best to make it a great night,” the man with the deep voice said.