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The Oak Ridge Boys' 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks
The Oak Ridge Boys photographed in 1986
The Oak Ridge Boys have been around in one form or another since the 1940s, though, the current and most famous lineup of William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, and Richard Sterban is the one that has become a fan favorite throughout the world, eventually gaining membership into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The group shows no sign of a slow down, still touring 150 dates a year, and just finishing a new album with the highly respected Dave Cobb behind the controls. In light of their continuing drive and artistic excellence, here are ten of the best Oak Ridge Boys moments on record to date.
10. The Oak Ridge Boys -- "Dream On"
This 1979 Oak Ridge Boys song is historically notable for a couple of reasons. The song itself was originally a No. 32 hit for The Righteous Brothers in 1974, and has been the only single to feature bass singer Richard Sterban on lead vocals. The record is a great example of that four-part harmony of “The Mighty Oaks.”
9. The Oak Ridge Boys -- "Thank God For Kids"
This song was an unlikely hit for a couple of reasons. For starters, the song itself had been around for a decade, as songwriter Eddy Raven originally recorded the song in 1972. The track was issued as a promotional single for the group’s first Christmas album in the fall of 1982, and the timeless message of the song, combined with William Lee Golden’s unforgettable vocal, resonated with fans, making the Yuletide single a hit. As the old gospel song states, “Time has made a change” over the years, with the group adding the line “and grandkids too” to emphasize the passing of time!
8. The Oak Ridge Boys -- "I’ll Be True To You"
Alan Rhody provided the powerful lyrics for the very first Oak Ridge Boys song to top the Billboard charts from 1978. The composition, about a man who doesn’t realize what he has until it is literally too late, touched listeners throughout the United States, including Tim McGraw, who named this song as one of his Oaks favorites.
7.The Oak Ridge Boys -- "Ozark Mountain Jubilee"
William Lee Golden is beloved by his fellow Oaks members and fans alike, and perhaps there is no better example of his unique Alabama stylings than on this Top 10 hit from the fall of 1983 that was a nostalgic ode to life growing up in the mountains.
6. The Oak Ridge Boys -- "Bridges and Walls"
It’s not only the finest song the quartet recorded during the 1987-95 Steve Sanders era, but perhaps the best ballad in the Oak Ridge Boys song catalog. Though his time with the group was brief, Sanders did give his all for the period he was with the Oaks, including this breathtaking ballad performance that hit the top ten in early 1989. Breaking up never sounded so anguished yet beautiful.
5.The Oak Ridge Boys -- "Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight"
The group’s final single of the 1970s remains one of their concert favorites to this day. The bouncy number gave the Oaks their second number one hit, thanks to the songwriting of Rodney Crowell and Donivan Cowan.
4. The Oak Ridge Boys -- "Come On In"
Though the group has split up the vocal approach on most of their singles, giving Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban each a chance to sing lead on a radio hit, this 1979 smash featured all four trading off lines in the chorus, making for a melodious moment that stands in their live show to this day.
3. The Oak Ridge Boys -- "I Guess It Never Hurts To Hurt Sometimes"
The late Randy VanWarmer, who wrote this 1984 single from Deliver, penned this song about the passing of his father. The song became the ultimate ballad performance for Bonsall, who mined emotional gold out of the song. The video for the track was filmed at Nashville’s WSMV-TV Channel 4, and featured a cameo from future TNN personality Charlie Chase.
2. The Oak Ridge Boys -- "Elvira"
Dallas Frazier wrote the song that would become the career record for the Oak Ridge Boys in 1966 about a street in Nashville rather than a woman. Frazier recorded the song himself, as did Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. The song laid around pretty much forgotten when the group recorded it for their Fancy Free album in 1981. The record captivated America’s attention, gaining them their biggest hit and made the term “omm poppa mow mow ” an unforgettable lyric!
1. The Oak Ridge Boys -- "Bobbie Sue"
Critics might have thought the group was headed to the "Elvira" well too soon, releasing this energetic number less than a year after, but the tempo of this track owed as much to a 1950s sock hop, complete with the saxophone work of The Muscle Shoals Horns. Thirty-five years after the release of this classic Oak Ridge Boys song, it remains a can’t-miss part of their live set and gives the female demographic another reason to scream after a Sterban bass note!