Authors: William Lee Golden with Scot England
Publisher: England Media
Release Date: May 24, 2021
Very few people have had a career (and let’s me honest, life in general) like William Lee Golden. A farm boy with aspirations of becoming a star, Golden’s story is definitely a unique one. At the age of 82, he is putting this story to paper with Behind The Beard, written with biographer Scot England.
Most people recognize William as “the guy with the beard who sings with The Oak Ridge Boys.” Gospel fans remember him as the suave baritone of the group. Many are familiar with his infamous departure and subsequent return. All of these are covered here, as well as his incredibly honest recounts of life on the road, his failed marriages, the transition from gospel music into country/pop, and some startling admissions, nearly all of which are presented in a laid-back, matter-of-fact manner. If you’re looking for juicy details, you may get some, but they are not given for the sake of drama, nor does he try to skirt any blame for his shortcomings.
For example, while he does address his firing from the group in 1987, he openly acknowledges his role in it. No one is dragged unnecessarily through the mud, and he even prefaces it by asking the reader not to think negatively towards his singing partners.
Also included are numerous photos, many from his own personal collection, which showcase his youth, his early gospel days, and his evolution from the snappy gospel baritone to the rebellious mountain man country star. I’m not going to spoil some of them, but needless to say, some you just have to see to believe…
The book is formatted almost like a printed documentary, with interviews and excerpts from family and friends. Each of his ORB partners gets space here, as do each of his sons, and even his first wife, Frogene, who would sadly pass away shortly after her contributions were given. At over 200 pages, it’s a surprisingly quick read, and broken up in a way that you could skip around in chapters if so desired.
The book is published by England Media, an independent publisher owned by co-author Scot England. A few oddities exist within the text that, at times, make it a little confusing to read (for example, the number 50,000 would be printed as “50, 000,” causing the number to break between lines in a few spots). These, of course, are minor inconveniences at best and don’t necessary detract from the book itself.
A fair warning – a few choice words are sprinkled throughout the book. They are few and far-between (at worst, a PG level), but they do exist.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the Oak Ridge Boys, as well as both gospel and country music fans. In fact, I would suggest reading this along with Richard Sterban’s autobiography, From Elvis To Elvira, as it gives two very distinct views of one of the most well-known vocal groups in American music, as well as two very interesting behind-the-scenes views of the gospel music industry in particular.