The Originals: Go Out To The Program

by David Bruce Murray | February 6, 2016 12:27 PM

If you saw the Oak Ridge Quartet/Boys in concert from the mid-1950s throughout the 1960s, you probably have fond memories of a comedy routine called “Go Out To The Program.” They began doing the routine when Calvin Newton was the lead singer. When that group disbanded, a new group was formed with Smitty Gatlin singing lead that continued to perform “Go Out To The Program.” The Oaks continued performing the routine after Duane Allen became the lead singer in 1966, but ultimately decided to retire it.

“Go Out To The Program” featured the following introductory theme chorus:
“Well, Christian friends if you want to hear singing; good old Gospel singing,
Go out to the program(s) whenever they’re in your town.
Well/Now, talk about singing; praise the Lord, shouting all around,
Go out to the program(s) whenever they’re in your town.”

In later performances, the chorus words were modified to:
“Well, brothers and sisters if you want to get happy, sing your blues away,
Go out to the program whenever they come your way.
Well, talk about shouting and praising the Lord, singing about my God,
Go out to the program, and listen to His holy word.”

After a chorus, they’d list off a few popular group names, and perform hits by those groups with unique characteristics of the original versions exaggerated for comedic effect. The chorus more or less remained the same over the years, but the featured songs changed as hit songs came and went. These caricature versions of popular songs were quite entertaining. Audiences ate it up, especially when the groups they were lampooning happened to be on the same program. Sometimes a member of the group being parodied would join the Oaks on stage to show the audience it was all in good fun.

Since the 1960s, other groups have done the “Go Out To The Program” routine. The Cathedrals had a similar routine in the 1980s, but didn’t use the chorus to connect the songs. The King’s Boys and the Steeles did the full routine including the chorus during the 1980s and early 2000s respectively.

Most Southern Gospel fans who remember the Oak Ridge Boys doing “Go Out To The Program” assume they were the first group to do it, but that isn’t the case. Calvin Newton has said the Oaks first heard it while they were shopping in a record store. He arranged “Go Out To The Program” to fit the Oaks’ audience, and they began presenting it in 1954.

That recording the Oaks heard in the record store had been recorded in November 1953 by the Dixie Hummingbirds. Ira Tucker is credited with the arrangement. Check it out!

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