During the baseball season, Richard Sterban the deep-voiced member of the Oak Ridge Boys thinks a lot about Utah. That's when the Nashville Sounds, the minor-league baseball team that he once co-owned, play the Salt Lake Bees.
"We're in the Pacific Coast League and we play you guys all the time," said Sterban, who is still an avid Sounds fan. Years ago, he also was part of the group that co-owned the Salt Lake Gulls.
"Conway Twitty was part owner, too, and one game we put on uniforms and helped coach," he reminisced.
Sterban and the rest of the Oak Ridge Boys Duane Allen (lead), Joe Bonsall (tenor) and William Lee Golden (baritone) have been reminiscing a lot as they make their way across the country for their 40th anniversary tour.
They'll perform at Salt Lake City's Abravanel Hall on Monday.
Sterban said the performance will be two shows in one as the legendary country and gospel quartet will perform 45 minutes of hits including their 1981 Grammy Award winner "Elvira" followed by a longer set of Christmas music.
This year also marks the 24th anniversary of their Christmas tour.
During a recent telephone interview, Sterban talked about the band's longevity and how the members are not afraid to let Jesus be part of Christmas.
Did you imagine in 1973 that you'd be doing a 40th-anniversary tour?
If you had asked any one of the four of us that we'd be here 40 years later, we wouldn't have believed it. That we're still performing and doing it at a pretty high level is mind-boggling. Not many acts stay together for 40 years
What's your secret?
We thank the good Lord first for giving us our health. But we really look forward to getting up onstage every night and we enjoy the creative process, going into recording studio and recording new music.
It helps that we have periodically reinvented ourselves. We worked with a young producer, David Cobb, on the 2009 album "The Boys Are Back." David is not country and doesn't live in Nashville. He took us down a road musically that we had never tried before. We recorded "Seven Nation Army" [from The White Stripes] and that turned a lot of heads and got us a lot of attention.
Then we worked with Ben Isaacs, with the gospel bluegrass group The Isaacs. He took us in a more acoustical direction and once again we reinvented ourselves. But all along, we've made it a point to stay to true ourselves and not change who we are.
Country music has changed a lot in four decades. Do you like what you see?
Today's country music is totally different. When you look at who performed at the [Country Music Association] award show, you see that we really don't fit any longer. It's a different age. Today's country has become today's pop music, that's what they listen to. But the business also is bigger and better than before and performers like Taylor Swift have taken country music around the world.
The Oak Ridge Boys have had so many hits. Has there ever been a song you turned down and regretted?
The vast majority of our songs have been written by others. We live in Nashville where there are the best songwriters, so we take advantage of that.
There have been songs that we had and turned down. The best example was "Achy Breaky Heart." We had that song first and heard the demo, which was called "Don't Tell My Heart." We turned it down and it became a monster hit for Billy Ray Cyrus.
The Oak Ridge Boys have several Christmas albums and are known for Christmas music. What can Utahns expect to hear at your concert?
We cover just about every aspect of Christmas, the romantic side of Christmas, the fun side of Christmas. We even have a great Santa segment. But the final part of show the most important part is about the sacred part, the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of Jesus. We're not very politically correct. But this is not a holiday tour we are on. This is a Christmas tour.
Oak Ridge Boys 40th Anniversary Tour and Christmas Show
It's two shows in one as this legendary country quartet performs 45 minutes of its greatest hits followed by a longer set of Christmas music.
When • Monday, Dec. 2, 7:30-10 p.m.; includes 20-minute intermission
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $37-$47; arttix.com or 801-323-6800.