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Even after 40 years in the music business, The Oak Ridge Boys haven't yet run out of "firsts." On Sunday afternoon (Jan. 27) in Nashville, the members of the legendary vocal group were honored as guest ringmasters for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a new experience for an act that has played to audiences all around the world. The Oaks also performed the national anthem, which they've done on countless occasions—but never at a circus.
"Just when you think you've done everything," the Oaks' Joe Bonsall told Country Weekly before the event, "it's time to sing at the circus. It's a first for us. That's what we're doing here today, welcoming the Greatest Show on Earth to Nashville. It doesn't get any bigger that that!"
Oaks lead vocalist Duane Allen couldn't help but notice a touch of irony with their guest ringmaster roles. "We often call our manager [Jim Halsey] P.T. Barnum because he looks at everything as a big show," Duane said, laughing. "He does think that he's a ringmaster sometimes."
The Oaks were also pleased to welcome back bass vocalist Richard Sterban, who had to miss some shows after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon in Key West, Fla., about two weeks ago. Richard made his official return the previous night when The Oak Ridge Boys played the Grand Ole Opry. For a few weeks, Richard will have to perform his vocal parts while sitting in a wheelchair. "They want me to go about four weeks without putting any weight on it," Richard told Country Weekly. Richard suffered the injury when he stepped off a curb. Joe cracked, "We've been telling everybody that Richard was climbing in the Himalayas with the Dalai Lama, but nobody's buying it."
Before the Greatest Show on Earth got underway, the Oaks were presented with a plaque honoring them as guest ringmasters.
Look for more on the Oaks under the big top in the March 4 issue of Country Weekly, on stands Feb. 25.