Presented by Humana
Opry Country Classics feat. Oak Ridge Boys, Leroy Van Dyke, Lynn Anderson, & moreCountry
hosted by Larry Gatlin
Oak Ridge Boys
Hendersonville TN | Country
Theirs is one of the most distinctive and recognizable sounds in the music industry. The four-part harmonies and upbeat songs of the Oak Ridge Boys have spawned dozens of Country hits and a Number One Pop smash, earned them Grammy, Dove, CMA, and ACM awards and garnered a host of other industry and fan accolades. Every time they step before an audience, the Oaks bring three decades of charted singles, and 50 years of tradition, to bear on a stage show widely acknowledged as among the most exciting anywhere. And each remains as enthusiastic about the process as they have ever been.
"When I go on stage, I get the same feeling I had the first time I sang with the Oak Ridge Boys," says lead singer Duane Allen. "This is the only job I've ever wanted to have."
"Like everyone else in the group," adds bass singer extraordinaire Richard Sterban, "I was a fan of the Oaks before I became a member. I'm still a fan of the group today. Being in the Oak Ridge Boys is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream."
The two, along with tenor Joe Bonsall and baritone William Lee Golden, comprise one of Country's truly legendary acts. Their string of hits includes the pop chart-topper Elvira, as well as Bobbie Sue, Dream On, Thank God For Kids, American Made, I Guess It Never Hurts To Hurt Sometimes, Fancy Free, Gonna Take A Lot Of River and many others. They've scored 12 gold, three platinum, and one double platinum album, plus one double platinum single, and had more than a dozen national Number One singles and over 30 Top Ten hits.
The Oaks represent a tradition that extends back to World War II. The original group, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, began performing Country and Gospel music in nearby Oak Ridge where the atomic bomb was being developed. They called themselves the Oak Ridge Quartet, and they began regular Grand Ole Opry appearances in the fall of ’45. In the mid-fifties, they were featured in Time magazine as one of the top drawing Gospel groups in the nation.
By the late ’60s, with more than 30 members having come and gone, they had a lineup that included Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, Noel Fox, and Willie Wynn. Among the Oaks’ many acquaintances in the Gospel field were Bonsall, a streetwise Philadelphia kid who embraced Gospel music; and Sterban, who was singing in quartets and holding down a job as a men’s clothing salesman. Both admired the distinctive, highly popular Oaks.
“They were the most innovative quartet in Gospel music,” says Bonsall. “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.”
The four became friends, and when the Oaks needed a bass and tenor in ’72 and ’73, respectively, Sterban and Bonsall got the calls. For a while, the group remained at the pinnacle of the Gospel music circuit. It was there they refined the strengths that would soon make them an across-the-board attraction.
“We did a lot of package shows,” says Bonsall. “There was an incredible amount of competition. You had to blow people away to sell records and get invited back.”
Their Gospel sound had a distinct Pop edge to it and, although it made for excitement and crowd appeal, it also ruffled purist feathers and left promoters unsure about the Oaks’ direction. Then in 1975, the Oaks were asked to open a number of dates for Roy Clark. Clark’s manager, Jim Halsey, was impressed by their abilities.
“He came backstage and told us we were three-and-a-half minutes (meaning one hit record) away from being a major act,” says Bonsall. “He said we had one of the most dynamic stage shows he’d ever seen but that we had to start singing Country songs.”
They took his advice and the result was a breakthrough.
“Those who came to Country music with or after the New Traditionalists of the mid-eighties cannot possibly imagine the impact the Oaks had in 1977, when they lit up the sky from horizon to horizon with Y’All Come Back Saloon,” wrote Billboard’s Ed Morris. He added “... the vocal intensity the group brought to it instantly enriched and enlivened the perilously staid Country format. These guys were exciting.” Within a year, Paul Simon tapped them to sing backup for his hit Slip Slidin’ Away, and they went on to record with George Jones, Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bill Monroe, Ray Charles and others. In 2007, they recorded with the son of an old friend. Shooter Jennings, the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, invited the Oaks to perform Slow Train, a song on his sophomore CD.
Their career has spanned not only decades, but also formats. They have appeared before five presidents. They produced one of the first Country music videos (Easy, in 1977, although not released in the U.S., it reached the 3 slot in Australia). They participated in the first American popular music headline tour in the USSR. And they have become one of the most enduringly successful touring groups anywhere. They still performing some 150 dates each year at major theaters, fairs and festivals across the U.S. and Canada.
They did it with a consistently upbeat musical approach and terrific business savvy.
“We always look for songs that have lasting value and that are uplifting,” says Allen, who has co-produced the Oaks’ last seven studio albums. “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.”
They proved their business acumen in any number of ways, including such steps as declining the chance to sit on the couch during their many appearances on the Tonight Show.
“We said, ’If you’re going to give us four minutes on the couch with Johnny, we’d rather have four minutes to give you another song that lets people know what got us here,’” says Allen. “We didn’t get here talking; we got here singing.”
They also proved themselves to be capable and tireless advocates of charitable and civic causes, serving as spokesmen and/or board members of fundraisers for the Boy Scouts of America, the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse (now known as Prevent Child Abuse America), Feed The Children, the National Anthem Project and many more.
The group’s first personnel change in many years occurred in 1987 when Steve Sanders, who had been playing guitar in the Oaks Band, replaced William Lee as the baritone singer. Late in ’95, Steve resigned from the Oaks and exactly one minute after midnight on New Year’s Eve, Duane, Joe and Richard surprised a packed house at the Holiday Star Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana, by welcoming William Lee on stage and back into the group. The hit makers were finally together again!
The Oaks’ high-energy stage show remains the heart and soul of what they do, and they refine it several times a year, striving to keep it fresh well into the future.
“We’re not willing to rest on our laurels,” Golden says. “That gets boring. As a group, we do things constantly to challenge ourselves, to try to do something different or better than the last time we did it.”
“I feel like I can do what I do on stage just as good now as I could 20 years ago,” says Bonsall. “I plan to be rockin’ my tail off out there as long as I’m healthy. The people who come out, who bring their families to see us, deserve everything I’ve got.”
“We’ve experienced a lot of longevity,” adds Sterban. “I think the reason is the love we have for what we do—the desire, the longing to actually get up there and do it. We love to sing together... to harmonize together. It’s what our lives are all about.”
Leroy Van Dyke
Leroy Van Dyke, of "Auctioneer" and "Walk On By" fame, star of the movie, "What Am I Bid?" is known around the world as an entertainer, recording artist, radio and television star, actor, auctioneer and veteran of the Nevada circuit. He has recorded over 500 songs, and probably holds the record for most repeat-performance bookings of any working, name country music entertainer. He has worked 40 to 70 fairs and livestock events per year for over five decades, in addition to a great variety of other engagements.
He was born on a farm (not in a hospital) in rural Pettis County, Missouri, without the amenities of running water and electricity. Elementary schooling was in one-room country schools, then to high school at Sedalia, where he ranked third in a class of 180 graduates.
Leroy is a graduate of the University of Missouri with a dual major: Animal Husbandry and Journalism, with a minor in Speech. He received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, did one semester of graduate work, and was a member of both the junior and senior University of Missouri intercollegiate livestock judging teams.
After serving as a special agent, U. S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps, in Korea, Leroy was catapulted into show business while working as a journalist, when his self-penned "Auctioneer" recording went a million-plus just weeks after its release. He then joined Red Foley's ABC-TV Network "Ozark Jubilee" in Springfield, Missouri, as a regular member, and continued in that position for three years until the show left the air.
He again had a multi-million seller with "Walk On By," a record that stayed in the charts an incredible 42 weeks, nineteen in the number one position, and was later named by Billboard Magazine as the biggest country music record in history! Leroy then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and became a regular member of the world-famous Grand Ole Opry.
Billboard currently ranks Lynn Anderson among the Top-10 most successful female country artists for all-time record sales. In a career that spans beyond four decades, Lynn has charted 11 #1, 18 Top-10, and over 50 Top-40 recordings. This country music legend has earned 17 Gold albums and won virtually every award available to a female recording artist: CMA Female Vocalist, ACM Female Vocalist, and the prestigious Grammy Award. She was also the first female country artist to win an American Music Award in 1974, as well as the first to headline and sellout Madison Square Garden that same year.
Mandy Barnett, a native of Crossville, Tennessee, started singing at five years-old. She has been singing since.
As a teenager, Mandy starred as country music legend Patsy Cline in the stage show “Always . . . Patsy Cline” at the celebrated Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. The performances were sold out nightly and received rave reviews across the country. Mandy, in role as Patsy, appears on the Decca Records cast recording.
Mandy soon signed with Asylum Records where she released her first album as herself, appropriately entitled, “Mandy Barnett.” The album received glowing reviews in major trade publications and magazines, including “Time" magazine, as well as praise from veteran country artists and fans.
In due course, Seymour Stein, who introduced the world to Madonna, Seal, the Barenaked Ladies, and k.d. lang, heard Mandy’s voice and was, he said, “spellbound.” When Stein launched Sire Records within Warner Music Group, Mandy was the first artist he signed. Mandy’s Sire Records project paired her with the undisputed pioneer of the Nashville Sound, producer Owen Bradley. The album that they made together, “I’ve Got A Right To Cry,” would be his final contribution to the community who knew him through his work with legends Ernest Tubb, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Kitty Wells. Owen passed away four songs into the project, but not before leaving his unmistakable mark on the album. His brother and longtime partner, Harold Bradley, inherited the delicate task of finishing the album with Mandy. A legal pad filled with Owen’s handwritten notes for each song guided the two through the rest of the sessions, and what was to be Owen’s farewell to the world was poised to propel Mandy and her remarkable vocal talent once again into the national limelight.
“I’ve Got A Right To Cry” was a huge critical success. “Rolling Stone” magazine named it the top country album of 1999. Other stellar reviews appeared in “People,” “Newsweek,” “Interview,” and multiple national newspapers. Mandy appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” as a result of her acclaim.
In addition to her own albums, Mandy has been featured on movie soundtracks, including “A Walk On the Moon,” “Traveller,” “Space Cowboys,” “Election,” “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” and “Crazy.” Mandy also sang on the SpongeBob SquarePants album “The Best Day Ever,” sharing the spotlight with the likes of Brian Wilson, Tommy Ramone, Flaco Jimenez, and NRBQ.
Mandy tours regularly and is a frequent guest on the Grand Ole Opry. She reprised her role as “Patsy Cline” in the acclaimed production “Always . . . Patsy Cline” at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee during 2009, in honor of the 15th anniversary of the celebrated venue’s extensive renovations and re-opening. Back by popular demand, Mandy again hit the Ryman stage in “Always . . . Patsy Cline” in June and July 2011.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Rounder Records teamed up for the 2010 exclusive Cracker Barrel store release of Mandy’s Christmas album “Winter Wonderland,” which distinguished music historian and critic Robert K. Oermann called “an instant classic.” Among other publications praising “Winter Wonderland,” the “L.A. Times” lauded Mandy’s “pipes of steel,” “big” voice and “glorious echo” harkening back to the likes of all-time great female singers like Cline and timeless sounds. “All Music” proclaimed “Winter Wonderland” as “timeless,” as Mandy captures the nostalgic holiday mood “perfectly and wonderfully.” Rounder re-released “Winter Wonderland” widely for holiday season 2011.
Mandy’s latest album “Sweet Dreams,” released in 2011 on the Opry Music label, features Mandy’s renditions of songs previously recorded by Patsy Cline. Along with Cline hits like “Crazy,” “I Fall To Pieces,” “Faded Love,” and the album title track, Mandy offers stunning versions of Irving Berlin’s pop standard “Always” and the Mel Tillis-penned “Strange.” Reviewing “Sweet Dreams,” DigitalRodeo.com applauded Mandy’s talents as “one of the most beautiful ’classic country’ female voices of all time. She has total control of her voice and sings effortlessly. Barnett is a true master of her craft.” “Country Weekly” magazine affirmed this view, noting how Mandy embodies “the emotional torch-and-twang style of Patsy Cline with authority” with her captivating “effortless and emotional performances.”
Larry Wayne Gatlin (born May 2, 1948) is an American country music singer/songwriter. He is perhaps best known for teaming up with his brothers Steve and Rudy in the late 1970s, becoming one of country music's most successful acts of the 1970s and 1980s. Gatlin has had a total of 33 Top 40 singles (combining his solo recordings and those with his brothers). As their fame grew, the band became known as Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers. Their popularity lasted throughout much of the 1980s. Their biggest hits together include, "Broken Lady", "All the Gold in California", "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)", "She Used to Be Somebody's Baby", and "Talkin' to the Moon". Larry Gatlin is known for his rich tenor voice and for the string of pop-inflected hit songs he wrote and recorded throughout the 1970s and 80s. During this time, country music trended heavily towards polished pop music arrangements in a style that came to be known as Countrypolitan. Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers came to prominence and enjoyed their greatest success during this period with hit singles that showcased the brothers' powerful three-part harmonies and Larry's evocative falsetto voice.