From Elvis to Elvira: Richard Sterban went from backup singer to center stage

The Oak Ridge Boys will be at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on Monday

The Oak Ridge Boys: William Lee Golden, from left, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, and Duane Allen. The group has released a new album, "Christmas Time's A Coming," that features holiday songs such as "White Christmas" and "Peterbilt Sleigh." The Oak Ridge Boys will be at the Barbara B Mann Performing Arts Hall on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012.

Photo by David Bean

The Oak Ridge Boys: William Lee Golden, from left, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, and Duane Allen. The group has released a new album, "Christmas Time's A Coming," that features holiday songs such as "White Christmas" and "Peterbilt Sleigh." The Oak Ridge Boys will be at the Barbara B Mann Performing Arts Hall on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012.

Leaving Elvis was one of the best moves of his life.

Richard Sterban was singing with the Stamps, backup singers to the musical legend, when the Oak Ridge Boys came calling four decades ago.

Sterban — who sings bass — and his three bandmates will perform 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.

"There was really little hesitation on my part to join the Oak Ridge Boys," Sterban, 69, said in a telephone interview earlier this month.

Oak Ridge Boys

What: Concert featuring favorites including “Elvira,” and “You’re the One” and Christmas show with tunes from the group’s new album, “Christmas Time’s A-Coming”

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers

Cost: $39-$49

Tickets: 800-440-7469 or www.bbmannpah.com

"I felt the group had a great deal of potential. Even though I was with the King of Rock 'n' Roll, I was still a backup singer. My aspirations were being more than that. Obviously, I made the right decision."

Sterban celebrated his 40th anniversary with the group in October, and the quartet will mark 40 years together next year. Joining him onstage for their Christmas show will be lead singer Duane Allen, tenor Joe Bonsall and baritone William Lee Golden.

Their tour coincides with the group's new album, "Christmas Time's A-Coming," that features traditional holiday favorites such as "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" and "White Christmas," along with "Peterbilt Sleigh."

Sterban calls the Christmas show two shows in one, with the group starting with favorites including "Elvira," "Everyday" and "You're the One" for about 45 minutes. After intermission, the rest is a Christmas show, Sterban said, featuring snow machines, Santa Claus himself and the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus.

At one point, the four will sit in rocking chairs and discuss their childhood Christmas memories, he said.

"We try to cover just about every aspect of Christmas," he said. "The show itself is really a total package. It's a great family show."

Sterban, who grew up in New Jersey, now calls Tennessee home. He said he toured with Elvis for 11/2 years in the early 1970s and discussed some of those times in his book, "From Elvis to Elvira."

"It was an interesting experience," he said. "Elvis was a practical jokester."

The Oak Ridge Boys perform during the Republican National Convention in August in Tampa. The group will perform a Christmas show Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.

Photo by Associated Press

The Oak Ridge Boys perform during the Republican National Convention in August in Tampa. The group will perform a Christmas show Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.

"We spent a lot of time harmonizing together with him. That was one of his favorite things. I tell a story in the book, one time when we were doing that, he tried to sing bass in my ear and tried to show me how he could sing bass, too. He wasn't a great bass singer but he didn't have to be — he was Elvis."

It was the Oak Ridge Boys who invited him to join, Sterban said. Since then, the group has enjoyed success in country and pop music, with the 1981 hit "Elvira." And it's on that song where Sterban sings his famous "oom-pa-pa-oom-pa-pa-mau-mau" solo.

"It's really our signature song," he said. "It's a great song to sing along to."

Other than seven years when Golden left, the Oak Ridge Boys have managed to remain and adapt. Their rendition of the rock group White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" — on the group's 2009 album The Boys Are Back — shows the quartet isn't afraid to stretch itself.

Sterban said he's a fan of many musicians today, including Taylor Swift and the Zac Brown Band.

"I feel good about our industry and the future of country music is in great shape," he said.

Sterban said he and fellow group members still enjoy performing and have no plans to retire.

"We're all still feeling pretty good for our age," he said. "As long as the good Lord above blesses the four of us with good health, you'll still hear us, out doing what we're doing."

© 2012 gonaples.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Sessions