The Oak Ridge Boys have won lots of awards, but Richard Sterban, the deep bass of the Boys since 1972, says that receiving the James D. Vaughan Impact Award is special.
"We're being honored for the contributions that we have made to gospel music over the years," says Sterban in a call from "somewhere in Minnesota" enroute to Minot, N.D.
The award is being given out by the Southern Gospel Music Association. The Oaks have already been inducted into the association's Hall of Fame.
The Oak Ridge Boys were started by Wally Fowler in Knoxville in 1945, but, in the 1970s evolved into a secular country group having a stack of hits including "Elvira," "Bobbie Sue," "Thank God for Kids" and many, many more.
"We now make our living singing country music, but because of the success we have singing country music it has allowed us to take gospel music into places where it is not normally performed," says Sterban. "I think that is a big part of why we're being rewarded. We'll go into a casino for example and we won't hesitate to sing 'Amazing Grace' to people who are really not expecting it."
Previous award honorees have included Dolly Parton, Bill Gaither and The Statler Brothers.
The group's newest album, "Back Home Again," draws the Oaks a little more toward country. The album is produced by Ben Isaacs of the bluegrass gospel group The Isaacs.
"We sat down and talked the direction we wanted this album to take and at first we talked about recording music that was not neccesarily gospel, but would appeal the to gospel market. It was Ben Isaacs idea to do the John Denver song 'Back Home Again' and he wanted me to do Kris Kristofferson's 'Why Me, Lord?' and Joe to do 'Coat of Many Colors' ..."
In addition, the group members pulled out gospel quartet songs that they had loved for years.
"We went way, way, way back and pulled out some of the oldest gospel and spiritual songs we could think of," says Sterban.
The group also has a new Christmas album on the way and Sterban has just released a memoir called "Elvis to Elvira," which contains stories of when Sterban toured with Elvis Presley as part of the gospel group the Stamps Quartet and stories with the Oak Ridge Boys.
At the moment, though, he's happy to be honored.
"We've received so many messages on Twitter and Facebook from gospel artists we've worked with through the years and they're all honored that we're receiving this very prestigious award. It's something we take very seriously. We don't take it lightly."
James D. Vaughan Impact Award presentation
With: The Oak Ridge Boys, The Perrys, Booth Brothers, Legacy Five, Gold City, The McKameys and others
When: 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3
Where: Dollywood Celebrity Theatere, Pigeon Forge
Tickets: $55, includes parking, admission to Dollywood and admission to the show. Ticket can only be purchased by calling 865-908-4040.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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