Oak Ridge Boys to perform in Anderson as part of farewell tour

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Nov. 18—ANDERSON — What do the atomic bomb, World War II and quartets have in common?

The Oak Ridge Boys, formerly the Georgia Clodhoppers.

The Clodhoppers notably entertained folks at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory where the atomic bomb was being developed.

"These people could not leave (the laboratory) for security reasons but the Georgia Clodhoppers had security clearance," said Richard Sterban, bass singer for The Oak Ridge Boys. "They ended up going there regularly."

Sterban and the rest of the legendary country group will take the stage at the Paramount Theatre next Saturday as part of their farewell tour.

After the war, the Clodhoppers became regulars at the Ryman Auditorium, the former location of the Grand Ole Opry.

The group's name was eventually changed to the Oak Ridge Quartet.

In 1957, the group's then-leader, Wally Fowler, sold the rights to the group's name to Smitty Gatlin, a member of the quartet, who in 1961 changed the name to the Oak Ridge Boys.

The group's longest tenured member, William Lee Golden, the baritone known for a his long beard, joined in 1965.

Duane Allen, the group's lead singer, joined the group a year later, followed by Sterban in 1972 and Joe Bonsall in 1973.

Sterban said the legendary foursome has been together for the better part of 50 years.

As with all good things, it has to come to an end. The boys have decided to make this tour their last.

The tour is called "The American Made Christmas Farewell Tour," though they are unsure when it will end.

"It may take us a year, it may take us two years," Sterban explained. "We have not put a limit on it, but we're definitely going to slow down.

"At the first of the year, we're going to work quite a bit less but still try to take advantage of the Farewell Tour to say 'Thank you' for the great career we've been allowed to have," he added. "We still will be around for a while."

At the Paramount next weekend, despite their performance being a holiday show, audiences should expect to hear all sorts of non-Christmas Oak Ridge Boys hits, including "Elvira," for which Sterban is perhaps best known for his iconic bass solo line.

Sterban said the Oak Ridge Boys have gone all out for their Christmas shows in the past. Santa Claus is expected to make an appearance Saturday.

While the majority of the show has a high-energy, fun tone, one segment takes on a more cozy, intimate tone.

"We will cover every aspect of Christmas," Sterban said.

During past Christmas shows, the boys have a segment in which they sit in rocking chairs and tell Christmas stories.

The end of the show has often taken on a sacred tone, when the group members share something near and dear to their hearts — their faith.

Sterben said for them, Christmas is not about the festivities, but the birth of Jesus Christ.

The boys are excited to say "thank you" and potentially "goodbye" to their fans in Anderson.

Follow Caleb Amick on Twitter @AmickCaleb. Contact him at caleb.amick@heraldbulletin.com or 765-648-4254.