ORKNEY SPRINGS — Legendary country gospel quartet The Oak Ridge Boys will perform their biggest hits, like 1981’s “Elvira,” along with music from their latest project, “17th Avenue Revival,” at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival on Aug. 9.
Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015, the Oak Ridge Boys have won five Grammy’s, four Country Music Association Awards and two Academy of Country Music Awards. The group also claims more than 30 Top 10 hits and numerous No. 1 singles. “Bobbie Sue,” “Thank God For Kids,” and “American Made,” which are among their most popular songs.
“When the Oak Ridge Boys come to town, we know people want to hear the hits,” said bassist and vocalist Richard Sterban in a phone interview.
The band’s roots trace back to World War II, when a group called the Georgia Clodhoppers started performing in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to entertain the scientists and military personnel working on the Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first atomic bomb. They then became known as the Oak Ridge Quartet in the 1940s and reorganized in the early 1960s under a new name, The Oak Ridge Boys. None of the current members were from the original group.
“Our history is so important to us,” said Sterban, who joined in 1972. “We feel we have an obligation to continue that history.”
Before he joined the Oak Ridge Boys, Sterban toured with Elvis Presley as a backup singer with J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet for a year and a half.
“Back then, it was no question [Elvis] was the biggest star in the world,” he said. “To be a part of it was very exciting at the very least. No doubt it was a special time in my life.”
He made what he calls the most difficult decision in his life when he was asked to leave the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s tour to join The Oak Ridge Boys. But it’s a decision he doesn’t regret.
“I was a big fan of the Oak Ridge Boys at the time. I really believed that the group had a great deal of potential,” Sterban said. “Time has proven that I made a good decision. We’ve had such a great career.”
At 76 years old, the feeling of performing on stage never gets old for Sterban and his bandmates, which are like brothers to him.
“We love what we do. We are still having fun doing this,” he said. “Every night, we still look forward to it. That has not changed over the years.”
What has changed is the band’s musical direction. The Oak Ridge Boys teamed up with award-winning Nashville producer Dave Cobb for their latest project, “17th Avenue Revival.” Cobb has worked with the likes of Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown Band and Brandi Carlile.
“He’s taken us down some roads musically that we had never been down before,” Sterban said. “It’s a nice balance of modern country combined with old time gospel music, some of the old hymns we grew up with going to church and Sunday school.”
Through “17th Avenue Revival” and beyond, Sterban said the band now wants to focus on making music that has a positive impact.
“It’s very meaningful music. It’s music that’s helping people going through difficult times in their lives,” he said. “As we have grown older, recording music like that is more important to us.”
According to Sterban, the band just finished recording a Christmas album — another collaboration with Cobb — that is set to be released in October.
Sterban said the band doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon.
Their performance at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival begins at 8 p.m. at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs. Tickets are $49 for pavilion and $44 for lawn.
“[It’ll be] a night of good country music and good family entertainment,” Sterban said. “It should be a great festival.”
For more information, visit www.musicfest.org.