1982 Oak Ridge Boys – Bobbie Sue
Wally Fowler and the Georgia Clodhoppers began singing for workers and their families at the secret Oak Ridge nuclear plant during World War II. The group primarily sang gospel music, and became members of the Grand Ole Opry. They eventually changed their name to the Oak Ridge Quartet. Three of the members left in 1949 and a long list of singers came and went over the next sixteen years. Their name morphed into The Oak Ridge Boys to would sound more contemporary.
William Lee Golden joined the group in 1965, singing baritone. Lead singer Duane Allen joined in 1966. Richard Sterban joined the group in 1972, singing bass.
Tenor Joe Bonsall joined the group in 1973 when their prior tenor left, and that quartet remained intact for more than a decade. One of the first things the stable group did was sing backup vocals for a song by Johnny Cash. Praise the Lord and Pass the Soup reached #57 on the Country chart, marking the first time the group charted on anything other than the gospel charts.
The group finally switched over to the Country chart with the recording of the 1977 album Y’all Come Back Saloon. The album spawned singles that peaked at #3, #2, and #1. They continued with singles that reached similar spots on the chart in each of the next three years.
In 1987, the group finally reached the pop chart. The single Elvira topped the Country chart and peaked at #5 on the Hot 100. Their next single again topped the Country chart, but it was a little too Country for Top Forty radio stations, and couldn’t get past #104.
The group’s last visit to the top forty on the Hot 100 came in 1982 with the release of Bobbie Sue. The single peaked at #12 on the Hot 100 and again took the group to the top of the Country chart.
They had nine more #1 hits on the Country chart before the group changed its lineup. William, the baritone singer, had let his hair and beard simply keep growing and had begun to not fit the image the group desired. The other three members voted him out of the group and replaced him with Steve Sanders.
The hit single kept on coming through 1990, after which Contemporary Country took over most Country radio stations and the Oak Ridge Boys were no longer getting much airplay. Steve abruptly walked away from the group in 1995, and shortly after that, William rejoined the group. Their lineup has not changed again, and they returned to often recording gospel music beginning in 2000. They released their more recent album in 2018.
The group became members of the Grand Ole Opry in 2011.
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