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Vintage Vinyl #1's: The Oak Ridge Boys Go "Fancy Free"

by VVN Music

The Oak Ridge Boys were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame two years ago in recognition of their long standing influence and performance in country music.

Over the years, they had 33 top ten country singles, including 17 number 1's, but their history goes back over seventy years.

The group started as Wally Fowler and the Georgia Clodhoppers in 1943 but changed their name to the Oak Ridge Quartet after continuously performing at a nuclear research plant in Oak Ridge, TN during World War II.

The group recorded under that name for years, starting with their 1958 debut The Oak Ridge Quartet on Cadence Records, but it wasn't until after they had ten albums to their name that the first member of the modern version of the group joined.

William Lee Golden was simply a fan when he asked if he could replace Big Jim Hammill, a short term member who he felt was hurting the group's sound.  Amazingly, he was brought into the group in 1964 when Hammill retired.

In 1966, Duane Allen was asked to replace Smitty Gatlin, a member since 1957 who left to become a minister.

The last two members, Richard Sterben and Joe Bonsall, came on in the early-70's and, except for a short period when Golden went solo, the quartet has been together ever since.

"Fancy Free", which hit number 1 on this date in 1981, was their fifth number 1 and the followup to their biggest hit, "Elvira".

The top five Country Singles on November 7, 1981:
  1. Fancy Free - Oak Ridge Boys
  2. My Baby Thinks He's a Train - Rosanne Cash
  3. All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down) - Hank Williams, Jr. 
  4. Sleepin' With the Radio On - Charly McClain
  5. Share Your Love With Me - Kenny Rogers