The Oak Ridge Boys achieved what is to many the highest pinnacle of success in country music in 2015, when they were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was a dream that all four men for years hoped would come true, facing disappointment year after year when they were not included in the list of inductees.
“It’s something that you hoped would happen, but every year would come and it didn’t,” William Lee Golden reflects to Forbes. “I remember going down to some of the press announcement ceremonies, and we weren’t named.”
Fortunately, after decades and decades of success in country music, their wish was finally granted.
“One year we were at the Grand Ole Opry when our manager, Jim Halsey, asked us all to meet back in our dressing rooms after the show,” Golden recalls. “Sarah Trahern of the Country Music Association came in and told us she had good news. They’d made the decision that we would be part of the next inductees into the Country Music Hall Of Fame.
“Some of the guys teared up,” he continues. “It got real emotional there for a minute. We were hugging and all of that. Then Sarah said that there was a catch: We were not allowed to tell anyone for two months [laughs]. And, if we did, it was all off. We could tell our wives, but they weren’t allowed to tell anyone else.”
Golden and the other members of The Oak Ridge Boys managed to keep the secret until the news was announced, waiting several more months until their induction became official.
“We did keep the secret,” Golden says. “Two months later, we went to what we had been going to when they made the official announcements … Then there were three or four months until the ceremony itself. So, in the end, we had known about our selection for almost six months before it happened. They do make a nice presentation there, and tape it for their own archives, but don’t release it to the public. At the ceremony, Kenny Rogers put the medals around our necks.”
The Oak Ridge Boys are marking the end of an era this year, with their American Made: Farewell Tour, one more chance to say goodbye to their fans, many of whom have been with them for the entire 50 years they’ve been together.
“It’s a time of reflecting and there’s a sadness about being able that it’s a farewell tour,” Golden told Billboard when the tour was announced. “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 added. “It’s going to be an emotional tour.”
Unfortunately, the tour is continuing without Joe Bonsall, who recently announced he was retiring from life on the road, due to ongoing health issues.
“Many of you know I have been battling a slow onset (over four years now) of a neuromuscular disorder,” Bonsall shared. “I am now at a point where walking is impossible, so I have basically retired from the road. It has just gotten too difficult. It has been a great 50 years, and I am thankful to all the Oak Ridge Boys, band, crew, and staff for the constant love and support shown to me through it all. I will never forget, and for those of you who have been constantly holding me up in prayer, I thank you and ask for you to keep on praying.”
Find all of the remaining tour dates, and all of The Oak Ridge Boys’ music, at OakRidgeBoys.com.