All-American Oak Ridge Boys warm hearts at TJ’s Corral

Tahoe Onstage
Zen and the art of country gospel music: Joe Bonsall and the Oak Ridge Boys played a well-balanced set of greatest hits in TJ’s Corral at the Carson Valley Inn on June 25.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Tim Parsons

The Oak Ridge Boys are as American as a ’57 Chevy. No British Invasion here.

The boys are back, and they entertained a packed crowd Saturday night at TJ’s Corral, the showcase outdoor venue at Carson Valley Inn. By the end of the 90-minute, 23-song set, the band had the crowd chiming in with a chorus of “oom poppa, mow mow” to its signature song “Elvira.”

With a voice deeper than Lake Tahoe, bass singer Richard Sterban led the charge on “Elvira.” Heigh-ho silver, away. Sterban is a relative newcomer in the enduring country, pop and gospel group, joining in 1972 (followed a year later by the energetic Joe Bonsall, the band’s “baby.”) Oldtimers William Lee Golden and Duane Allen have anchored the Oak Ridge Boys for five decades, since the mid ’60s.

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With William Lee Golden, the Oak Ridge Boys can’t be called a barbershop quartet.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Their smooth four-part harmonies, backed by the polished Mighty Oaks Band complete with country steel pedal and rock ‘n’ roll electric guitars, sparkled on the Corral’s new Meyer Sound system, with Ed Collins at the controls.

The Oak Ridge Boys were in a celebratory mood, dropping by as part of their Celebration Tour. “We’re celebrating anything we feel needs celebrating,” Duane Allen told the adoring crowd. That includes the musicians playing together for more than four decades and last year’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. (“They have our four heads in bronze.”)

As the sun set over the Eastern Sierra, Stew Stewart, Carson Valley Inn’s longtime entertainment director, described the Oak Ridge Boys as “the most professional act in all my years of music, without question.” The band had kind words for Stewart, as well: “We’ve known Stew since the Earth began to cool.”

The boys were as cool as alley cats as they dished out ballads with themes of family values and patriotism, love songs and several spiritual tunes, giving nod to their early roots as a gospel band. Their sound could be described as barbershop quartet-like. But then there’s Golden, who sports a long, flowing silver beard and apparently was out of coin when a shave and a haircut cost two bits.

Their hit “Thank God For Kids” warmed the hearts of concertgoers and drew cheers from the wisest of the bunch when Golden added a kicker at the song’s end, “And Thank God For Grandkids, too.”

The band covered John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” which Sterban spilled out in the style of “Chantilly Lace” by the Big Bopper. That led to renditions of “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue,” inspiring fans to stand, smile and sing along as the warm, breezy night came to a close.

  • Oak Ridge Boys
    TJ’s Corral, Carson Valley Inn
    June 25, 2015
  • Set list
    Everyday
    American Made
    You’re the One
    Love Song
    Beautiful Bluebird
    Dream On
    This Crazy Love
    Saloon
    Ozark Mountain Jubilee
    Leaving Louisiana
    Roll Tennessee River
    Mama’s Table
    Thank God For Kids
    Come On In, Best You Can Do
    American Beauty
    Where the Soul Never Dies
    Time Has Made a Change
    No Matter How High
    Beyond Those Years
    Something About Me
    Boom Boom
    Elvira
    Bobbie Sue

    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Duane Allen has a number for TJ’s Corral.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Richard Sterban’s voice is deeper than Lake Tahoe.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Heigh-ho silver, away!
    Tahoe Onstage
    Don’t be so surprised, Joe. Tahoe Onstage covers all of the shows at TJ’s Corral.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Four-part harmonies in the Carson Valley’s gloaming.

    Tahoe Onstage
    Country Music Hall of Famers the Oak Ridge Boys.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

ABOUT Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage
Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.

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