The Oak Ridge Boys: ‘Christmas Is Good for Us’
The Oak Ridge Boys are once again crossing the country to help spread Christmas cheer this holiday season. The quartet, made up of Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban, is currently out on their 27th annual holiday trek, this year dubbed the Christmas Celebration Tour, to coincide with the release of their new festive album, Celebrate Christmas.
"We’ve all loved Christmas since we were a kid, of course," Bonsall recently told The Boot and other reporters. "Back in 1982, we recorded our [first] Christmas album, and it was during the hottest time of our career. We recorded "Thank God for Kids" on there, and "Thank God for Kids" became a monster hit. Next thing you know, here comes Kenny Rogers doing Christmas shows."
It was while the Oak Ridge Boys were performing with Rogers during one of his annual Christmas shows that the foursome had the idea to begin their own yearly tradition.
"I remember one night in particular," Bonsall continues. "One night, we backed up and said, ‘Man, we could do a Christmas show.' In December, it’s kind of light; you don’t get that many dates to play … Well, you know us. We like to work; we like to pay our people. So we said that night ... 'We could do this. We could do a Christmas tour. We’ve got plenty of Christmas music.'"
Each year, the Oak Ridge Boys have tried to grow and enhance their holiday tour, and the trek has become the highlight of their year. Their 2016 Christmas Celebration Tour features brand-new production, including a state-of-the-art LED lighting system -- but for the Oaks, their favorite part of the Christmas shows remains performing the beloved carols.
"We do 10 hits, we take a 20-minute break, and from that point on, it's all Christmas," explains Allen. "It’s all about love at Christmas, kids at Christmas, gifts at Christmas, burning your credit card until it’s unrecognizable at Christmas, going home to see family. It’s about Santa Claus, and, most of all, it’s about the story of what Christmas is all about, and that’s the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And we don’t make any excuses about that. We don’t call it a holiday tour; we call it a Christmas tour."
Celebrate Christmas is the Oak Ridge Boys' seventh holiday album. Considering that the group has released so many albums of their favorite Christmas songs already, they admit that finding new songs to record can be a challenge.
"There’s not too many classics left. Duane Allen’s always good at finding new songs for us -- whether it’s a regular project, a gospel project or a Christmas project ...," Bonsall notes. "I think the cool thing about this album is, to me, the classics are great, and people love to hear the classics, but our Christmas show, as well as every Christmas album you’ve ever seen, including this one, always includes a nice mix of the classic Christmas songs.
"You’ll hear Richard singing "Blue Christmas," of course, but you’ll also hear us sing "That’s Christmas to Me," that we got from Pentatonix, and you’ll also hear us sing "Santa Claus Is Real," which we got from Sonya Isaacs," Bonsall continues. "There’s new songs to sing, and we try to mix it up and make a nice mix of the new songs that sound like the Oak Ridge Boys doing something cool, as well as the old songs."
For the Oaks, sharing in the holiday spirit is one way that they can give back to their loyal fans.
"They always pick up on our excitement, especially in our Christmas tour," Allen says. "It’s the biggest thing we do all year. We make enough money on our Christmas tour that we underwrite the slowest part of the year, the first six months of the year, in advance, and we give everybody a good Christmas bonus, and we pay all of our bills. And so Christmas is good for the Oak Ridge Boys. It makes everybody happy."
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