One of the most prolific groups in country music history also shares one of the longest tenures in the business – The Oak Ridge Boys.
The group actually began as the Oak Ridge Quartet a gospel offshoot of Georgian Wally Fowler’s Georgia Clodhoppers.
They were a regular part of the Grand Ole Opry ® in the 1940s and Wally helped to foster the all night sings concept as he carried the music in to large auditoriums around the country.
He sold the group to Smitty Gatlin in the 1960s and the group eventually changed its name from quartet to boys while featuring some of the field’s greatest singers such as Willy Winn, Gary McSpadden, Jim Hamill, and Herman Harper.
The group was one of the best known on the gospel music circuit of the 1960s and 70s.
Duane Allen and William Lee Golden became part of the lineup and with the additions of Richard Sterban and Joe Bonsall in the 1970s; the group known around the world took shape.
It was at the urging of Roy Clark’s manager Jim Halsey, they chose to step into country music. Initially, the move distanced the group from its established gospel audience.
Many who are exclusively familiar with their post 1974s career transition to country music may only know them for their songs such as “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue” and “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon.”
Because of their wide platform, they continued sharing the gospel music sound around the world in concerts and recordings.
It is for the impact that the group had to carry the stylings of Southern gospel music to a wider audience due to that bold choice to come to country music that they will be honored this year with the 2012 James D. Vaughan Impact Award on Oct. 3 during a special ceremony at Dollywood at the Southern Gospel Music Association’s (SGMA) annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Singing News Fan Awards.
“It is a huge honor for The Oak Ridge Boys to be presented with the James D. Vaughan Impact Award,” said Duane Allen, lead singer for the Oaks. “Southern style gospel music is the foundation of harmony, which is the sound of The Oak Ridge Boys. We all grew up loving the great gospel quartets and gospel music. We are very humbled to have been chosen to receive this award and look forward to its presentation.”
Group members Duane Allen, William Golden, Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban will attend to accept the award, named in honor of James D. Vaughan, a Southern gospel music pioneer and one of the genre’s founders.
Past recipients include Bill Gaither, James Blackwood, Les Beasley, Bob Brumley, Mosie Lister, Paul Heil, Eva Mae LeFevre, J.G. Whitfield, Lari Goss, BarbaraMandrell, Dolly Parton and the Statler Brothers.
“The name Oak Ridge has long been associated with gospel music,” said Charlie Waller, SGMA Executive Director. “Even today the Oaks are still delivering the gospel sound to their audiences in their own inimitable fashion.
“Their endeavors to persevere have not gone unnoticed,” he said. “Their rich gospel music legacy makes us proud to honor them with the James D. Vaughan Impact Award.”
The Oak Ridge Boys enjoyed 25 top ten singles, including 13 number one hits while continuing to tour and record today, he said.
Their most popular gospel songs included “I Know,” “King Jesus” and the ever popular, “Jesus Is Coming Soon,” written by SGMA Hall of Fame member, the late R.E. Winsett, according to Waller.
The SGMA Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony/Singing News Fan Awards are Oct. 3, 2012 at DP’s Celebrity Theatre at Dollywood, home of the Southern Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame.
Seating is reserved, and tickets are $75 ($55 for Dollywood season pass holders) and include one-day Dollywood admission, parking and lunch as well as Dollywood’s more than 40 rides, shows and attractions.
Tickets go on sale March 1 and must be purchased in advance by calling the SGMA office at (865) 908-4040.
The SGMA is a non-profit organization that maintains the Southern Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame, the only facility honoring Southern gospel music and dedicated to the historic preservation of the genre’s accomplishments, both for the music and the people. Museum hours coincide with Dollywood’s operating schedule. Donations are tax-deductible. For more information about the museum or its inductees, visit www.sgma.org.