Talking About the Oak Ridge Boys

It’s curious that the entertainers who are out there today playing gigs and recording new music are called “The Oak Ridge Boys“. I’m not really a fan of those who profit off of keeping a band’s name once there are no original members left. That’s the music industry for you though.

They were originally called “The Oak Ridge Quartet”. They were playing the Grand Ole Opry in 1945, and by the mid-1950s Time Magazine had dubbed them one of the top drawing Gospel Groups in the nation. That’s right I said Gospel Groups. Not a secular note was passing their lips. They released their first recording in 1958. The lineup at that time was Smitty Gatlin, Herman Harper, Ronnie Page, and Tommy Fairchild. In 1959 they added member Willie Wynn effectively becoming a Quintet. Gary Trusler came in 1960 but only stayed a year. In1962 Ronnie Page left, and Gary McSpadden came in.

The name change to “The Oak Ridge Boys” happened in 1963, and the lineup was Smitty Gatlin, an original member, Herman Harper, an original member, Willie Wynn, who came aboard in 1959, Gray McSpadden, who came aboard in 1962, and Tommy Fairchild, an original member. Gary McSpadden was replaced by Jim Hammill in 1964. You got all that?

The first member of the current lineup, William Lee Golden, came along in 1965 when Jim Hammill left. The second member of the current lineup, Duane Allen, showed up a year later in 1966 and that made the group a sextet for that year. In 1967 Smitty Gatlin was gone. The 1967 and ’68 lineup consisted of Herman Harper, Willie Wynn, Tommy Fairchild, William Lee Golden, and Duane Allen. Well, Herman Harper left in 1969, and Noel Fox climbed aboard. This lineup held until 1973 when Tommy Fairchild departed and Richard Sterban joined. In 1974 the last of the originals were gone, and Joe Bonsall joined. That means that the current lineup of William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Richard Sterban, and Joe Bonsall fleshed itself out in 1974.

The first recording this version put out was 1974’s “The Oak Ridge Boys”. They were still definitely a Gospel Group, but they had a certain chemistry that was driving the Gospel purists away. In 1977 they released what is know as their first Country album, “Y’all Come Back Saloon”. The fusion of Country and Gospel were nothing new, but The Oaks, as they are affectionately known to their fans, had an exceptional brand of it. They successfully crossed over.

Pictured here is their 1980 release “Together”. This is called their fourth Country album. It was produced by veteran producer Ron Chancy, who has worked with many artists over the years. It produced a number one hit with “Trying to Love Two Women”. It’s an ironic tune about cheating, but for the former Gospel singers, I guess once they went country it was no holds barred. If you click on that picture, it will take you to the auction in my Vulture’s Vinyl eBay Shop where you can vie for the chance to become it’s new owner.

Thanks for dropping in.

The Vulture

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One Response to “Talking About the Oak Ridge Boys”

  1. The Oasis at Four Queen Palms Says:

    This is interesting. Thanks for the education.

    Liked by 1 person

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