After a busy 2013 that culminated with their annual Christmas tour, the Oak Ridge Boys were definitely ready for a break to recharge their batteries – so says lead singer Duane Allen. “After we get through with our Christmas vacation, we really need a rest. We work really hard all year long, and we take that rest seriously,” he says, though he confesses to Billboard that after a little time away from the road, he’s ready to get back on the bus. “About a week or two ago, I started to get a little stir crazy,” he said.
Fellow Oaks member Joe Bonsall agrees with Allen, saying “I enjoy the time off, because we really need it. From the middle of August right through December, we really hit it hard, and our Christmas tour is always a big deal. So, a little time off the road feels good. It gives us a chance to catch up and fuel up, but I’m ready to go.”
The veteran quartet has a full schedule throughout 2014, as they continue their 40th Anniversary tour – commemorating the long relationship between William Lee Golden, Richard Sterban, Allen, and Bonsall, and they are also giving fans something they have been requesting for many years — a live album.
This spring, the Oaks will release “Boys Night Out” on Cleopatra Records – a collection of fourteen of their biggest hits taken from the road show. The only live album in the foursome’s discography is a 10-song collection released in 1977. When asked why it has taken so long to document the Oaks’ concert experience, Bonsall said “To be honest, I don’t know. We have talked about it for a long time. It always seemed that another project would push its’ way ahead of it, and we went off in that direction. I guess the time is just right. We felt like it was, so we started taking recording gear out there. I think we’ve got about 50 songs in the can. But, we honed in on fourteen of the number one hits, the singing and the playing was good. I think it’s going to be really exciting for our fans, because they’ve been asking for it, so we’ve finally given it to them.”
One of the highlights from the set is their 1979 classic “Come On In,” one that Allen says works well in concert – for obvious reasons. “That song has always been nice in the fact that is features each one of the Oak Ridge Boys doing a step-out line. We’ve always been good at those quartet kind of songs that features everybody. That’s our foundation, and one of the components of how we learned how to sing. The old southern gospel quartets featured everybody. In the beginning, when we first signed with a country label, they weren’t accustomed to that. They were more familiar with groups like the Statler Brothers with one lead singer. But, all four of us have had hit records as the lead singer.”
Also on the disc is their 1984 ballad “Make My Life With You,” which Allen admits was very unorthodox – as it was a new track from their Greatest Hits, Volume 2 set – back when that was a rare occurrence. “We were short of two songs for our second Greatest Hits album. We searched through all the new songs that we had that we felt would be an automatic number one hit, and found these two. Both ‘Make My Life With You’ and ‘Everyday’ did become No. 1 records. We had a pretty good grip at that point at what people were wanting from us. So, to take a chance on putting two new songs on a Greatest Hits album before they were hits was a risk, but we felt very good that the songs would be hits. Fortunately, both of those chances turned out to be right.”
And, of course, the centerpiece of the album is their 1981 million selling signature song, the Dallas Frazier-written “Elvira.” Bonsall says from the beginning licks of the song, it’s magic. “There’s something about it when we hit that intro. It’s amazing how it lifts the crowd. People still love that song as much as ever. Back in those days, it was cool that parents would come up to us and say ‘My little three year old boy just learned to sing, and the first song he learned was ‘Elvira.’ Fast Forward to 2014, and we run into people who tell us ‘My little boy is three years old, and he loves to sing ‘Elvira.’ So, the staying power of that song can’t be denied. We get excited to sing it every night because of that. It’s the kind of song everybody wishes they had.”