The Oak Ridge Boys have gotten to meet plenty of celebrities and dignitaries in their career which has spanned more than 50 years, traveling all over the world. But few have meant as much as their friendship with the late President George H. W. Bush, who began as a fan, and turned into a friend of the award-winning quartet.
The Oak Ridge Boys were at the White House to perform for then-President Ronald Reagan in 1981 when they met Bush for the first of many times.
“We were doing a soundcheck when Vice President Bush came across the lawn and introduced himself,” Sterban recalls to Whatzup. “He told us he was a big fan but couldn’t make the concert that day. He asked us to play a few songs and we quickly realized from the song requests that he was familiar with our work and really was a fan. We played a few songs for him and gave him a little mini-concert.”
That unplanned performance for Bush was the beginning of a lengthy friendship between the four members of The Oak Ridge Boys and Bush, one that continued until Bush passed away in 2018.
“Every time we played for Bush, he asked us for his favorite song, ‘Amazing Grace,’ ” Sterban shares. “Once he asked us if we would perform it at his funeral, and we agreed. When the time came, we were in Spokane, [Washington] for a show. A friend arranged for a private jet, and we left for Houston right after the show. We sang ‘Amazing Grace,’ and it was a very emotional appearance.”
The Oak Ridge Boys are currently on their final American Made: Farewell Tour. Although Sterban says they aren’t exactly retiring, fans will see a lot less of the Country Music Hall of Fame members when this tour finally ends.
“We’re not retiring, but we’re definitely slowing down,” Sterban explains. “We’ve had a great career and we wanted the chance to tour the country and thank all our fans who have supported us for so long. We’re touring with our Christmas show, which we’ve been known for lately.
“It’s a real family show. We’ll do some old songs, some new songs. We’ll sit in rocking chairs and tell stories. Yes, you will hear ‘American Made’ and you will hear ‘Elvira.’ We’re really excited about it.”
When announcing the Farewell Tour, William Lee Golden admitted it was a bittersweet end of an era for them.
“It’s a time of reflecting and there’s a sadness about being able that it’s a farewell tour,” the 84-year-old told Billboard. “But there’s the other side that you feel so blessed because of your singing partners, the people that you’ve been able to travel with and sing with. The accomplishments that we’ve had together is four guys, regardless of our different backgrounds, coming together and we each bring a uniqueness to the group with our contributions.
“It’s exciting to have been able to have survived this many years with the same lineup of singers, and to be able to go out there and thank people,” he continues. “It’s going to be an emotional tour.”
Find all of the Oak Ridge Boys’ music and upcoming shows at OakRidgeBoys.com.