The Oak Ridge Boys will bring their 2018 Shine The Light Tour to Benson Auditorium on the campus of Harding University in Searcy on Monday, Jan. 22. Opening the show will be Jimmy Fortune. Show time is slated for 7:30 p.m.


“We’re looking forward! It will be great to come back to Searcy,” tenor singer Joe Bonsall said in a recent phone interview.


The state of Arkansas has certainly been no stranger the group. Through the years, the Oak Ridge Boys have made countless Arkansas appearances, including several at Little Rock’s famed Barton Coliseum and they filmed a huge HBO television special in Pine Bluff in 1982.


“We’ve played a good number of Arkansas cities, and Arkansas fans have always accepted us,” Bonsall noted. “Man, I remember a lot of those Barton Coliseum shows and coming to the state fair. And that Pine Bluff show was just amazing back in ‘82. It was the first music special on cable television, and we were honored to host it.”


Despite being a well-known country group, the Oak Ridge Boys’ roots go much deeper. They began in 1943 as The Georgia Clodhoppers. By 1945, they were known as the Oak Ridge Quartet. In 1964, they changed their name to the Oak Ridge Boys. After various personnel changes, the four gentlemen, who have achieved the most success as the Oak Ridge Boys, came together. Baritone William Lee Golden joined the group in 1965, followed by lead vocalist Duane Allen in 1966. Bass singer Richard Sterban came aboard in 1972. The final piece of the puzzle was added in 1973, when Bonsall joined.


After years in the gospel field, the Oak Ridge Boys made the conversion to secular music with the album and single “Ya’ll Come Back Saloon” in 1977. The following year, they took home Vocal Group of the Year honors from the Country Music Association.


In 1981, “Elvira” became their signature song. The single itself sold more than a million copies. The tune was voted Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group at the Grammy’s and was named Single of the Year by the CMA.


“When we recorded ‘Elvira,’ we didn’t think anything about it being a monster hit,” Bonsall recalled. “We were on tour in the northwest, and I remember us being in Spokane, Washington. We did “Elvira,” and the place went crazy. We had to sing it again. The same thing happen in Portland, Oregon. We called MCA Records and told them that we had something really special with ‘Elvira,’ and they probably ought to release it as a single.”


The hits of the Oak Ridge Boys have been plentiful. Popular hit singles include such favorites as “You’re the One,” “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” “(I’m Settin’) Fancy Free,” “Bobbie Sue” and “American Made.”


In 2011, the Oak Ridge Boys became members of the Grand Ole Opry, and over the past four decades, they have received many awards and accolades. In 2015, the group was bestowed with the industry’s highest honor with induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.


Also, in 2015, Bonsall released On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys. The book chronicles more than 40 years through several untold stories. The Oak Ridge Boys’ phenomenal career has totaled 17 number one singles and numerous sold-out performances. However, there seems to be no slowing down in the group’s future.


“It’s still fun!,” Bonsall said. “We still love getting on that bus, traveling the country and walking out on that stage each and every night. We just finished a soon-to-be-released video with the Gaither Vocal Band and the Gatlin Brothers. We have a big 2018 planned. We love taking on whatever challenges God has for us. All four of us feel very blessed to still being doing this.”


Don’t miss this Searcy show. With a dynamic stage presence and an endless list of hits, the Oaks Ridge Boys have been one of country music most popular entertainers for four decades. Their high energy performances packed with many recognizable songs make each concert a true event.


Beebe native Charles Haymes is a member of both the Country Music Association and a music historian. Email him at charleshaymes@gmail.com.