Still strong as 'Oak'

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By Calen McKinney



It's been 40 years since the band got together, and they are still going strong.

As the chords to one of their most popular songs, "Elvira," are struck, the crowd of nearly 700 people stands.

"Oom poppa, oom poppa, mow mow," Richard Sterban sings. And the crowd sings right along.

The Oak Ridge Boys performed at Campbellsville University's Ransdell Chapel on Monday night as a fundraiser for the university's scholarship fund. The band's performance was also part of the band's official 40th Anniversary Tour.

Benji Kelly, CU's vice president for development, told the crowd that many people have asked how the university was able to book The Oak Ridge Boys for a concert on campus.

Kelly said Buzz Cason, a member of the CU Board of Trustees and American rock singer, songwriter, producer and author, is friends with the members of The Oak Ridge Boys.

Cason called the band and asked them to come to CU to help support the university and its mission. And Kelly said within a few weeks, the concert was arranged.

Cason performed as the opening act before The Oak Ridge Boys took the stage. They sang "Glory Bound," a song Cason co-wrote and The Oak Ridge Boys later recorded, together.

Kelly said 100 VIP tickets were sold for Monday night's show and about 600 general admission seats were available. Along with the VIP tickets, he said, came a meet and greet with the band members.

After paying some expenses, Kelly said, a little more than $37,000 was raised from Monday's concert.

During the concert, band member Joe Bonsall said the band would like to come back to CU to perform again.

"We would love to have them back," Kelly said.

After Monday's concert, Kelly said, a band manager said CU officials can contact the band next year when the fall tour is being booked. Kelly said he would like to see the band perform its Christmas show on campus next year.

Kelly said it was special for the band to perform at CU, but even more so during its 40th anniversary tour.

"They put on one heck of a show," Kelly said.

When Cason contacted the band, Kelly said, their fall anniversary tour had already been booked solid.

"I'm amazed at how quickly it came together. Buzz Cason called Duane Allen. Within six weeks, we had the thing set up."

During the concert, Allen said that when booking the tour, the band members said they wanted to go to some venues they had been before, but also some new ones. He said the band came to CU to honor Cason.

"He believes in this college," Allen told the crowd.

Allen said a nephew and niece in his family attended and graduated from CU.

"I've got blood here," he said.

Bonsall told the crowd that before the concert, they were asked if they are considering retiring.

"The answer is no," he said, which was followed by applause.

"It's been an honor after these years to be an Oak Ridge Boy."

Bonsall said he and his fellow bandmates have been blessed with good health and faith in God.

"Well, I guess we'll just keep on singing until he says something different."

He said he enjoyed his time on the CU campus and thanks the community for its hospitality.

"You do good work here," he said. "You can feel the spirit of God here."

The Oak Ridge Boys are known for their classic gospel, country and patriotic music. Their string of hits includes the pop chart-topper "Elvira," as well as "Bobbie Sue," "Dream On," "Thank God For Kids," "American Made," "I Guess It Never Hurts To Hurt Sometimes," "Fancy Free," "Gonna Take A Lot Of River" and others.

They have 12 gold, three platinum and one double platinum album, one double platinum single and more than a dozen national No. 1 singles and more than 30 Top Ten hits.

The band has received Academy of Country Music Pioneer Award, Grammy, Dove, CMA and other ACM awards. For more information, visit www.oakridgeboys.com.

See more photos from the concert in the Oct. 31 issue and in slideshows on the home page at www.cknj.com.