On Dec. 6 The Oak Ridge Boys moved the attendees at President George H. W. Bush’s funeral with their rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’. But who are the singers who were beloved by the 41st POTUS?
On Dec. 6 The Oak Ridge Boys sang the gospel “Amazing Grace” at the funeral of President George H. W. Bush who died at the age of 94 on Nov. 30. Many of the viewers watching from around the world who are not country and gospel music fans may not have recognized the four members of the singing group. But Duane Allen, 76, William Lee Golden, 79, Richard Sterban, 75, and Joe Bonsall, 70, were very familiar to the late POTUS. In fact, he was one of their favorite bands. Joe told the congregation how they first met President Bush. He said, “We first sang for him in October of 1983 on the lawn of the White House when he was Vice President and he said, ‘Fellas…would you sing me a song. I’m a huge fan.’” Joe added, “For decades we have sung for him…” Here’s everything to know about The Oak Ridge Boys:
1. The original Oak Ridge Boys began singing during World War II, according to the quartet’s website. The singing group was established in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1945 they started making regular appearances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and were featured in TIME magazine in the mid-50s.
2. The quartet was named after the Tennessee town near where the original group was based. Oak Ridge was the name of the place where the atomic bomb was developed.
3. There have been more than 30 members of the group. While Duane, Richard, William and Joe are the current faces of The Oak Ridge Boys, they are just four singers who have performed in the famed group. “They were the most innovative quartet in gospel music,” said Joe, who joined the group in 1973. “They performed gospel with a rock approach, had a full band, wore bell-bottom pants and grew their hair long…things unheard of at the time.”
4. They have worked with the who’s who of country music. Everyone from the late Johnny Cash and George Jones to Billy Ray Cyrus has performed with The Oak Ridge Boys. They’ve also performed with Paul Simon and the late Ray Charles.
5. They believe in singing “uplifting” songs. “We always look for songs that have lasting value and that are uplifting,” Duane is quoted as saying on the quartet’s website. “You don’t hear us singing ‘cheating’ or ‘drinking’ songs, but ‘loving’ songs, because we think that will last. We also don‘t put music in categories, except for ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ When we get through with it, it’s probably going to sound like an Oak Ridge Boys song no matter what it is.”