Even if you've don't instantly recognize the name of singer Richard Sterban, you likely will recognize his signature line: "Giddy up, oom poppa, oom poppa, mau mau."
The Oak Ridge Boys hit No. 1 on the country charts and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981 with their song "Elvira," and Sterban, the long-time bass singer for the quartet, laughed when asked about his famous part in the chorus.
"If I had such a thing as a claim to fame, it would be that," he said. "Many years ago, Ron Chancey, our producer, found 'Elvira' and played it for us. All four of us looked at each other and said, 'This is the song we've been looking for.' It felt like a hit."
The Oak Ridge Boys’ lineup has stayed steady for more than 40 years — tenor Joe Bonsall, lead Duane Allen, baritone William Lee Golden and bass Richard Sterban.
Sterban and his fellow Oak Ridge Boys - tenor Joe Bonsall, lead Duane Allen and baritone William Lee Golden - will perform their signature song and many others at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Clearfield County Fair in Clearfield, with special guest Lee Greenwood. Tickets are $18 and $22.
Sterban, a native of Camden, N.J., first broke into the music business as a student at Trenton State College, now the College of New Jersey. He formed a gospel quartet with three other students, all from Pennsylvania, which they named the Keystone Quartet. After a few years - his future Oak Ridge Boy partner Bonsall also sang with the quartet for a time - Sterban received a call to join the gospel group J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet.
He moved to Nashville to join the group and soon found himself singing backup for Elvis Presley.
"Singing with Elvis was very exciting, but at the same time, it was strictly backup," he said. "I stood in the dark, singing 'oohs' and 'aahs.' It was exciting to be a part of it. It was the biggest tour in the music business back then, but I had bigger personal aspirations."
Sterban was a big fan of the Oak Ridge Boys - the group has been in existence in several variations since 1947, starting as the Oak Ridge Quartet - and he received a call from Golden to join the group in 1973.
"He told me their bass singer was leaving and asked, 'Would you be interested?,'" Sterban said. "There was little hesitation on my part."
The lineup of Sterban, Bonsall, Allen and Golden has now been together for 41 years, and Sterban said there are several factors to the group's staying power.
"If you would have told any one of us 41 years ago that we would still be together and singing, none of us would have believed it," he said. "We're going strong, we don't plan to retire, and we love what we're doing. That's a major factor. We have also developed a friendship second to none. It's a true brotherhood, and teamwork is a big part of our success.
"Periodically, we've also gone into the recording studio and reinvented ourselves. We haven't changed ourselves, but just traveled down some different roads. New music puts new life and new energy into us and into our show."
The group's latest project is its first live album, titled "Boys' Night Out," taped over 11 shows at the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.
"There's nothing new," Sterban said. "It's our greatest hits. It's a great example of what the Oak Ridge Boys sound like live in concert. It's pretty exciting."
Also, Sterban's new autobiography, "From Elvis to Elvira: My Life on Stage" can be purchased at www.oakridgeboys. com or www.amazon.com.
While the Oak Ridge Boys have sang with many of the biggest acts in music, appeared on television and have toured the world, Sterban said two moments stand out as his favorites with the group, both involving former President George H.W. Bush.
In the early 1980s, the group had been invited to sing at the Congressional Barbecue at the White House.
"When we were doing our soundcheck, I looked around and realized this was not your average date; this was something special," Sterban said. "Suddenly, this entourage starts coming toward the stage, and right in the middle was Vice President George Bush. He came up on stage and told us he was a big fan, but he would not be able to hear us that night. He asked, 'Would you guys sing a couple of songs for me?' And he started naming album cuts, obscure ones, and we realized he was a true fan. We hit it off with him, and he's become a good friend.
"A few years ago, when he was pretty sick and in the hospital, we arranged with Barbara Bush and some of the Bush children to make a phone call to his hospital room. We all gathered in our office and told him that we wanted to sing him a song. He asked for 'Elvira.' I really gave it my all on the 'oom poppa oom poppa mau mau,' because he likes that.
"We then went from 'Elvira' to 'Amazing Grace,' his favorite hymn. Barbara said his expression was priceless, and the very next day, he got out of intensive care. Later on, we said to Barbara that our songs had nothing to do with that, but she said, 'Oh yes, it did!' Music is a very healing thing, and we experienced it first-hand."
The Oak Ridge Boys have meant a great deal to country music, said Doug Herendeen, the midday DJ on True Country 94.3 FM, a country music radio station broadcasting out of Altoona.
"They've proven the appeal of group harmony," Herendeen said. "They've managed to pick great songs, put on a great show and they still sound great."
While people now view the Oak Ridge Boys as a classic country act, Herendeen says that's a misnomer.
"They weren't necessarily classic country," he said. "They were in the first or second wave of the more modern sound (which started in the late 1970s).
"Country labels didn't like the groups, other than the Statler Brothers. They thought groups wouldn't stick together, so they were reluctant to spend the money on groups. But with the success of the Oak Ridge Boys, more people were likely to take a chance on groups. The Oak Ridge Boys made labels open to this idea."
Sterban said the Oak Ridge Boys' show at the Clearfield County Fair should be a "great night."
"When we come to town, the bulk of the show will be the Oak Ridge Boys' greatest hits," Sterban said.
"There will be something for every member of the family."
Mirror staff writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.