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Q&A: The Oak Ridge Boys

The legendary quartet talks about dreams, regrets—and one another

In the Dec. 17 issue of Country Weekly you’ll find a wide-ranging interview with Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban—collectively known as the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. Here are a few internet-only exclusive outtakes from our chat with the Boys, whose most recent album is last year’s Front Row Seats.

What’s your most obsessive-compulsive habit?
Joe: Right now, picking a banjo. I’ve been obsessed with this instrument for four years, and it seems like every time I get a few minutes aside, whether I’m home, whether I’m on the road, in the back of the bus or out there on the street somewhere, I’ve got the banjo around my neck. I’m starting to, after four years, get a grasp of the instrument, and it’s starting to all kind of come to me now, and that makes me want to put that much more time into it. Some day I’d like to be a really good banjo player. I think I’m a few years off.
Duane: I guess I could go two different ways here. I’m a song person. When we start getting ready to record, I become really obsessed with finding the greatest songs that I can find in Nashville or the entire United States. And I become a song. That becomes my life because I think that the most important thing that can happen to an artist’s career is three minutes long. With three minutes of magic, you can just about get everything else in the business going for you. But you must have that three minutes of magic to multiply the bottom line. On a very personal basis, right now I’m pretty obsessed with getting my body in shape and working out at the gym and eating correctly.
William Lee: I don’t know that I have any obsessive-compulsive habits. I’ve tried to get out this summer. I’ve walked anywhere from five to 10 miles in a day. So I can walk 10 miles in three hours.
Richard: I’m a big baseball fan. I own just a little piece of a triple-A team, the Nashville Sounds, and I guess I’m kind of obsessed with it in a way. Every chance I get, I go out to the ballpark and hang out with the ball players.

What do you do when you’re in a bad mood and have to perform?
I’m never in a bad mood, and if I am, I fake it.
Duane: I try my best to bury all my bad moods before I go onstage.
William Lee: Well, I think that singing is one thing that kind of gets you out of a bad mood, and so I look forward to singing.
Richard: If I’m in a bad mood before I start singing, I try to get over it before I go out there onstage, but if I’m still in a bad mood, music takes care if it. It’s hard to be in a bad mood and sing.

Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time that you haven’t done?
I have to say that all my dreams have been fulfilled. I’m still living my dreams every single day. I mean, I wanted to sing when I was a kid, and here I am, 59 years old, and I’m singing. I wanted to sing in a group, and here I am singing in a group.
Duane: I’m living my dream. The reality of The Oak Ridge Boys is realizing my dreams come true. I live my dreams every day.
William Lee: I miss my family a lot. I have a young son, so I dream of being able to be with him a little more than I am. That weighs on me, having to sacrifice the time away from my family. It’s a burden that I have to bear. As far as career dreams, there’s certain ones that I have, but maybe they might be slipping away.
Richard: I’ve realized my dream. When I was a young man, my goal was to be in the best vocal group in the world, and I think I’ve arguably been able to accomplish that. I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and I would like to someday be able to see a lot of the world that I haven’t been able to see.

If you were given the chance to return to any previous point in your life and change a decision you made, what would it be?
Thankfully, many of those mistakes are buried in my closet somewhere, and I hope they stay there—but I learned from every one of them. I think as we go along in life, we mature and we hopefully become better people.
William Lee: I’ve probably made more mistakes than anyone in the room. I continue to make mistakes, I guess, and continue to learn from them. That’s who I am.
Richard: I think all the bad decisions that I’ve made in my life, as well as the good decisions, have been a part of what has made me what I am today. Overall, I’m very happy with where I am today, so I don’t think I would change anything.

If you were to write a country song about your life, what would the title be?
“Feeling Pretty Good!”
Duane: “A Little Bit of Everything”
Richard: “Way On Down”
William Lee: “How In the Hell Did I Get Here?”