Top 10 Oak Ridge Boys Songs
The best Oak Ridge Boys songs have made history, and their history as a band is worth noting, too.
The story begins around 1942, during World War II. Oak Ridge, Tennessee was the location of the top-secret ‘Manhattan Project.’ As the military town was perfecting the atomic bomb, a local group founded by Wally Fowler was performing as the Georgia Clodhoppers. With time, the town became more popular and the gospel group changed its name to the Oak Ridge Quartet. The ever-evolving group of singers finally became known as the Oak Ridge Boys, consisting of William Lee Golden, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban and Duane Allen.
Since, the group has become a staple of the country music genre — a band that’s worthy of a long overdue induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. They continue to record and tour, with several dates at their own theater in Branson, Mo. In honor of their contributions to country music, today we honor fun radio hits from ‘Bobbie Sue’ and ‘American Made’ to the heartfelt ‘No Matter How High’ and ‘Thank God for Kids.’
These are the Top 10 Oak Ridge Boys songs.
‘I’ll Be True to You’
Released as their third single for ABC records, the Oak Ridge Boys realized their first No. 1 song with the poignant ballad ‘I’ll Be True to You.’ The love drama gave the group a sign that the move to country music from the gospel genre was the right decision. From here, the Oaks would begin a long string of No. 1 hits through the ‘70s and ‘80s. ‘I’ll Be True to You’ is the first of our favorite Top 10 Oak Ridge Boys songs.
‘Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight’
By the time 1979 rolled around, the Oak Ridge Boys already accrued seven Top 10 singles. The next hit would be discovered by songwriter Rodney Crowell, who wrote ‘Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight’ with Donivan Cowart. After the Oaks heard Emmylou Harris’ version of the song from her album ‘Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town,’ they knew it was a good choice for their style of country.
‘No Matter How High’
Billboard ranks this single as the biggest charting radio hit of the Boys’ career. In 1989, the song featured the lead vocals of member Steve Sanders, who replaced William Lee Golden from 1987-1996. Sadly, Sanders passed in 1998, but was a prominent member of the group during Golden’s departure. ‘No Matter How High’ is a perfect fit on our Top 10 Oak Ridge Boys Songs list.
According to the writers, ‘Bobbie Sue’ actually came from songwriter Dan Tyler’s baby who was trying to say the word bottle, by going ‘ba-ba-ba-ba-ba.’ Tyler, who wrote the song with his wife Adele, and Wood Newton, came up with the idea for ‘B-b-b-b-bobbie Sue’ after he heard his baby asking for the bottle. Joe Bonsall tells TOC, “So I guess there wasn’t even a girl involved in that, to be honest. To the best of my knowledge, there is not an Elvira or Bobbie Sue, except all of those poor girls born in ’81 whose parents named them Elvira because of the song. We still hear from them; they’re still mad at us.”
Songwriter Bob Dipiero came up with the idea for ‘American Made’ after realizing that he had just bought a bunch of stuff that was made in foreign countries. Teaming up with songwriter Pat McManus, they honored the ladies who were born and bred in the U.S.A.. Miller Beer used the song as a popular commercial jingle shortly after it hit No. 1 in 1983.
‘Come on In’
In 1978, the Oak Ridge Boys were named the CMA Vocal Group of the Year. On the radio, they were in heavy rotation with ‘Come on In.’ Ironically, the song title would be used again in a different song that charted in 1985. The second ‘Come on In’ was actually subtitled ‘You Did the Best That You Could Do.’ Although the songs were completely different, they were both hits for the Oak Ridge Boys. Even more coincidentally, both songs peaked at the same position — No. 3.
After ‘Elvira’ hit No. 1 on the country charts, the single crossed over and began its run up the pop charts. During that important time, the Oaks needed just the right song for a followup. The result was the album’s title track, ‘Fancy Free.’ As ‘Elvira’ was spinning on pop radio stations, country stations were playing the next single, ‘Fancy Free,’ and the Oak Ridge Boys’ music seemed to be everywhere!
‘Ya’ll Come Back Saloon’
After years of enduring a fluctuating lineup and genre changes, the Oak Ridge Boys would stabilize in 1973 with their most recognizable members: William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Richard Sterban and Joe Bonsall. After much opposition from the gospel market (mostly due to the long hair and drummer used in the band), the Oaks made the switch to country music. In 1977, they were welcomed with open arms, thanks to their first Top 10 country single, ‘Ya’ll Come Back Saloon.’
‘Thank God for Kids’
The Oak Ridge Boys have been known to record some of the greatest Christmas music of all time. In all, they have over a half-dozen original holiday albums. The first seasonal project came in 1982 and featured a song penned by Eddy Raven that honored the miracle of children. ‘Thank God for Kids’ became so popular that it was played all year round and is now considered a timeless classic that is used in video slideshows and presentations for children’s organizations — even digital family photo albums. Although the song only peaked at No. 3, it may outlive every other Oak Ridge Boys single.
This Grammy-winning single was a monster smash in the making for several years. In the mid ’60s, the little gem was penned by Dallas Frazier after seeing a road sign that read ‘Elvira Street.’ Frazier recorded his own version with other artists to follow, including one by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Finally, ‘Elvira’ found her home with the Oak Ridge Boys in 1981. The country-pop crossover hit was named the CMA and ACM Single of the Year. ‘Elvira’ gets the No. 1 spot on our list of the Top 10 Oak Ridge Boys songs.