Entertainment

Oak Ridge Boys celebrate the Fourth in Palmetto

The Oak Ridge Boys, known for their distinctive harmonies on such hits as “Bobbi Sue” and “Elvira,” will headline the Palmetto Fourth of July Celebration.
The Oak Ridge Boys, known for their distinctive harmonies on such hits as “Bobbi Sue” and “Elvira,” will headline the Palmetto Fourth of July Celebration. Publicity photo

Richard Sterban has one of the most recognizable voices in pop-country music, but it’s recognizable mostly from a few scattered nonsense syllables.

He’s the guy who sang “Bub-bah, hub-bah” in “Bobbie Sue” and “Ba-oom-pop, ba-oom-pop a-mow-mow” in “Elvira.”

Sterban and the other three Oak Ridge Boys — Duane Allen, who’s usually the lead singer, tenor Joe Bonsall and baritone William Lee Golden — will be in Sutton Park on Independence Day for the annual Palmetto Fourth of July Celebration. They’re slated to take the stage at 7 p.m.

“We’re looking forward to coming,” Sterban said in a phone interview from his home near Nashville. “We are going to do our best to give them a good time.”

Obviously, that’s pretty much what you’d expect him to say (and yes, his speaking voice is as deep as his signing voice) but he and the Boys have shown over more than four decades that they know how to please audiences.

The roots of the Oak Ridge Boys stretch to the 1940s, when the group specialized in Southern gospel music. The current lineup has been together since the early 1970s, except for a few years in which Golden had stepped out of the lineup, and is responsible for taking the group’s sound from gospel, to million-selling pop-country pop.

“We’re going to do ‘Elvira,’ ” Sterban said. “I think it’s required by law that we do ‘Elvira.’ You’re going to hear a lot of hits. But we’re also going to do some gospel songs. And, because it’s the Fourth of July, especially, we’ll do some patriotic songs. It’s just a good family show.”

Some people may expect an oldies show from the Oak Ridge Boys, but they may not get exactly that. The Boys continue to record and continue to expand their sound. Their last studio album, 2008’s “The Boys Are Back,” was their biggest hit in many years. It featured such songs as the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” Those aren’t the kind of songs that most people associate with the Oak Ridge Boys.

They have a new album in the works, again with producer Dave Cobb, who produced “The Boys Are Back.” Cobb is best known for producing new-country artist Chris Stapleton and outlaw country singer Shooter Jennings.

“He took us down some roads musically that we had never traveled before,” Sterban said.

The group was thrilled with the results, Sterban said, that they’re working on a new album with Cobb. There’s no title yet, and no scheduled release date.

As for the Oak Ridge Boys themselves, Sterban said they’re getting along better and enjoying themselves more than ever. People may think of them as a group that had its biggest hits in the 1980s, but the Oak Ridge Boys consider the peak of their career the day two years ago when they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“That,” Sterban said, “was a pretty amazing experience.”

The Fourth of July Celebration is a festival not just a concert, so there’s plenty going on besides the music. The park will be teeming with vendors and activities for kids and families, and a fireworks display over the Manatee River will start right around the time the festival is ending.

One thing that some people might miss at this year’s celebration is alcohol. In April, the Palmetto City Commission voted not to allow beer sales at this year’s festival.

Details: 1 p.m.-9 p.m. July 4, Sutton Park, Sixth Street West at 10th Avenue West, Palmetto. Free. 941-723-4988, palmettofl.org.

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear

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