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The Oak Ridge Boys

May 10, 2000

The Oak Ridge Boys

Saturday, May 13, 2 and 8 p.m.

The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.

Hagerstown

Tickets cost $25 and $35, plus service and mailing charges.

For information, call 301-790-2000.

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

There seems to be two waves in country music these days, one of which The Oak Ridge Boys just might be riding.

"Right now, country music is in a strange place," said Richard Sterban, who sings bass.

cont. from lifestyle

Many of the up-and-comers are trying new styles that allow their music to fit under both country and pop headings.

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That crossover trend is reminiscent of The Oak Ridge Boys' earlier days, when they created gospel music with a pop edge. The sound ruffled some people's feathers, but it eventually caught on.

"We were trying to be just a little bit different," Sterban said in a telephone interview from Branson, Mo., where the band does about 40 shows a year.

Meanwhile, some of the names familiar to longtime country fans are coming to the fore again.

Kenny Rogers' song "Buy Me a Rose" is No. 1 this week on Billboard's listing for country singles and tracks, and his "She Rides Wild Horses" is No. 10 among country albums.

And George Jones is making a comeback after a long hiatus.

"People are beginning to demand more balance," Sterban said.

After eight years of not recording any major albums, the four-member band released "Voices" in July 1999. Sterban said the project was a chance for the group to show the world that it is still progressing musically.

"We're not on the radio. There's really nothing we can lose," Sterban said. "They were playing Garth Brooks instead of us."

The song "Ain't No Short Way Home" made it onto the country music charts, and the video has been well received on Country Music Television and Great American Country, Sterban said.

"The video really helped sell the product," Sterban said.

A video for "What'll I Do" is being released soon.

"Video's actually been better to us than radio," Sterban said.

Time has been good to the group, too.

Sterban, lead singer Duane Allen, tenor Joe Bonsall and baritone William Lee Golden have been together since the early 1970s. They have created 10 gold and three platinum albums and earned Grammy, Dove, Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards.

Golden left the band in 1987 but returned in 1995, re-creating the unique blend that made the group famous.

"This is the way The Oak Ridge Boys is meant to be," Sterban recalled thinking after the group gathered around the piano for a song when Golden returned. "It's a love for each other and a love for what we do. There's a magic here."

Since 1977, the group has focused primarily on country music, though its concerts always feature gospel music.

Sterban said the band is discussing releasing a gospel album in the near future.

"I think people really expect to hear gospel from us," Sterban said. A highlight of the group's concerts is a performance of gospel tunes a cappella.

Concertgoers also expect to hear old standards such as "Elvira," featuring Sterban's distinct bass solo, and "Y'All Come Back Saloon."

The band gives 165 to 170 concerts a year, Sterban said, a growing number of which are at gambling establishments sprouting all over the country.

"We're not spring chickens anymore," said Sterban, 57.

Golden is 61, Allen is 57, and Bonsall is 51.

The members exercise, get plenty of rest and watch their diets.

"It's important to take care of ourselves," said Sterban, who has bicycles at his residences in Nashville, Tenn., and Atlantic City, N.J., keeps one stowed away under the band's touring bus and has a case he can use to check one onto an airplane. "We can probably sing into our 70s."

"Our audience has aged along with us," Sterban said.

There aren't too many women in shorts and halter tops at the shows anymore, he said with a laugh. There are some college students, though, who have told the band that their parents forced them to listen to The Oak Ridge Boys' music in the car when they were young, and now they're hooked.

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