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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Photo Asked why he made the choice he did, Oak Ridge Boys bass singer Richard Sterban doesn't hesitate with his answer. "Singing with Elvis was very exciting, but at the same time, I was a backup singer. I was never that fond of standing in the dark and singing oohs and ahhs."

Richard Sterban is famous around the world for his honey-rich bass voice. But even after 47 years -- and his band's induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015 -- Sterban says he can't shake his past. He's been asked about it so often, in fact, that he wrote a memoir.

Unlike many celebrity tell-all tales, Sterban's book isn't about any dark chapters in his career or personal life. Instead, it takes readers back to his halcyon days with J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, when he rode into the music business on the coattails of the man he calls "the biggest star in the world." The title is "From Elvis to Elvira: My Life On Stage."


The Oak Ridge Boys

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. June 22

WHERE — ArcBest Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith

COST — $58-$150

INFO — or 800-965-9324

"Writing a book is something that I have thought about doing for many years, and the time finally felt right," says Sterban, who stops with the Oak Ridge Boys for one show only June 22 at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith. "When people find out I sang with Elvis Presley, inevitably they want to ask questions. I spent so much time talking about it, I thought maybe I should write it down."

Sterban joined forces with Steven Robinson, whom he calls "the best Elvis historian I know," but he says it's still his "personal story. You know me just a little bit better when you're done."

The pivotal part of the chronicle, says Sterban, who just turned 76, is the "major decision I made that changed my life."

"Elvis was the king of rock 'n' roll, and his tour was the biggest tour in the music business," Sterban says. "But I got a phone call one day from William Lee Golden [the Oak Ridge Boy known for his impressive beard], and he told me the bass singer was leaving and would I be interested in joining the band?

"Here I was, apparently on top of the world, and I had to make a decision," he remembers. "I was also a fan of the Oak Ridge Boys and felt like they had a great deal of potential. I wanted to be a part of the group.

"Back then, a lot of people questioned that decision. But I really believed I was doing the right thing. And I think history has proven I made a pretty good choice."

While he wouldn't trade away the memories -- particularly backstage when Elvis sang gospel -- Sterban says he's had a "great, great career" with the Oak Ridge Boys. One of his most treasured moments, he adds, came in in December 2018, when they sang "Amazing Grace" at the funeral of George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States. They met, Sterban recalls, when Bush was vice president and remained friends throughout the rest of his life.

Singing at his funeral required a late-night flight from Spokane, Wash., where the band was on tour, to Houston on a private jet donated for their use and then flying back right after the service to Kennewick, Wash.

"We're not spring chickens, so I think the good Lord gave us strength to do that," Sterban says. "We didn't miss a date, but more importantly we kept our promise to President Bush. I cannot imagine a greater honor than that."

NAN What's Up on 06/16/2019

Print Headline: Remembering Elvis

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