Concert Review – Oak Ridge Boys, Newberry, SC

This afternoon, I enjoyed a concert by the Oak Ridge Boys in Newberry, SC at the historic Newberry Opera House. I have uploaded several photos to my Facebook account.

The Newberry Opera House was originally constructed in 1881 as a combination court house, fire station and jail. The second floor featured a theater with a sloping floor. After the turn of the century, the venue was used as a movie house. There was talk of tearing it down in the 1950s, but city residents fought to save it. In 1996, the building was renovated and expanded. It only seats 426, which means that no matter where you sit, you’re going to be very close to the action.

The Oaks typically come to the venue once per year. Both shows scheduled for today were sold out more than a month ago.

I was blessed to receive backstage passes, so I got to spend a few minutes meeting the group before the concert started. I got to speak with William Lee Golden, Duane Allen and Joe Bonsall. They were all very kind. I gave Joe one of my New Britain Boogie CDs.

Within minutes after the meet ‘n’ greet, the group hit the stage singing “The Boys Are Back.” For the next hour and a half, they sang a mix of songs from their past including a few songs I hadn’t thought about in several years. They included some of their big hits, of course, like “American Made,” “Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight,” “Sail Away,” and “Elvira,” but they also featured “True Heart,” “Beyond Those Years,” and “This Crazy Love.” Another song I particularly enjoyed was “Louisiana Red Dirt Highway.” If you don’t recognize that title as an Oaks song, that’s because it was released by William Lee Golden in 1990 when he was a solo artist.

The Oaks included a Gospel set midway through the concert featuring “Life’s Railway To Heaven” (a cappella), “God’s Gonna Ease Your Troublin’ Mind,” and “Where The Soul Never Dies.” The concert concluded with another gospel song, “Heaven Bound.” Before the first Gospel set, Joe gave a quick history of the group. They started as the Georgia Clodhoppers in the 1940s, singing for the Manhattan Project workers in Oak Ridge, Tennessee which eventually inspired them to change their name to the Oak Ridge Quartet. William Lee Golden joined in 1965, Duane Allen came in a year later, Richard Sterban became the group’s bass singer in 1972 after a short stint with Elvis via JD Sumner & The Stamps, and Joe Bonsall came on board to sing tenor in 1973.

In one hour and a half, the Oaks performed a total of 20 songs. Here is a complete setlist:
1. The Boys Are Back
2. This Crazy Love
3. American Made
4. Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight
5. Y’all Come Back Saloon
6. Louisiana Red Dirt Highway
7. Sail Away
8. Beautiful You
9. Trying To Love Two Women
10. Gonna Take A Lotta River
11. Boom Boom
12. Hold Me Closely
13. Life’s Railway To Heaven
14. God’s Gonna Ease Your Troublin’ Mind
15. Where The Soul Never Dies
16. Beautiful Bluebird
17. Beyond Those Years
18. True Heart
19. Elvira
20. Heaven Bound

After the group left the stage, the sound man played a recording of their version of “Carry On, Wayward Son,” a rare cut that’s only available on a CD called When Pigs Fly. There’s one I’d love to hear them sing in a concert setting!

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both and David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

MusicScribe Comments

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  1. Reply February 26, 21:29 #1 quartet-man

    Who did the lead part on “Beyond Those Years since it was a Sanders feature originally? The Oaks resisted doing such songs for years because WLG thought it improper.

  2. Reply February 26, 21:30 #2 quartet-man

    Oh, I just noticed Gonna Take A Lot of River too, so I ask the same question on it.

  3. Reply February 26, 21:54 #3 Mary Wheat

    GREAT review David….thanks for sharing this. I have been to Newberry a couple times and
    love it there..beautiful old Theatre and enjoyed the town. I enjoy EVERY place I go to hear
    THE OAKS!!!! Wish I could have been there for the 2 shows, both set lists sound wonderful.
    Hoping to hear the same songs in FLA.

  4. Reply February 26, 22:08 #4 admin Author

    I wish I could remember, but I honestly don’t! :o)

  5. Reply February 26, 22:15 #5 quartet-man

    Well, you know Steve and WLG are very different. Some songs fit both, but not always.

    • Reply February 26, 22:47 admin Author

      William Lee may have done the lead on “Gonna Take A Lotta River,” but I think it was either Duane or Joe on both of those. WLG had just been featured on “Trying To Love Two Women” before River, and on “Beautiful Bluebird” just before Years, and they tend to spread out the songs that don’t feature Duane.

      I still can’t remember for sure. During the concert, I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of Steve Sanders singing the songs originally, so I didn’t pay particular attention.

  6. Reply February 27, 00:19 #6 quartet-man

    Well, Steve originally had the lead on”Perfect Love” (before later recorded by Joe on lead on the Voices cd.) So Joe is a candidate. I feel pretty confident that Richard probably didn’t on any of them. ;)

  7. Reply February 27, 00:22 #7 quartet-man

    Even if Joe did the lead on “Beyond” and stayed there, Duane could easily take the tenor. (If they didn’t change keys or invert harmonies). Or of course, Duane could take over after the solos and Joe go back to tenor. That is if Duane didn’t sing them,

  8. Reply February 27, 08:51 #8 Aaron Swain

    Here’s that rare cut you mentioned:

  9. Reply February 27, 12:44 #9 admin Author

    I have deduced that Joe took the lead on “Gonna Take A Lotta River.” I remember Duane standing back and acting like he was rowing while Joe stepped out and sang on one song. Since Duane sings lead on “Sail Away,” it had to be “River” where he did that.

    I think Duane most likely sang lead on “Beyond Those Years,” but I still can’t remember for certain on that one.

  10. Reply February 27, 12:47 #10 admin Author

    Thanks for the link.

    I should mention that it can still be purchased. It’s one of those cases where it’s rare because most people just have no idea it’s available.

    Here’s a link to the download for anyone who is interested…

  11. Reply February 27, 13:23 #11 quartet-man

    Thanks, David. I would like to hear the new versions. I am also curious if they inverted harmonies on River or traded off.

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