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A long lasting Country Music group, although they weren't originally one. The band began in the 1940s as a gospel quartet composed of Wally Fowler, Lon Freeman, Curly Kinsey and Johnny New. The group split from Fowler in 1949, and several membership changes later, Smitty Gatlin headed a new lineup in 1957. He also pushed the band to a more country-folk sound and eventually recruited baritone vocalist William Lee Golden in 1964. After Gatlin retired, Duane Allen joined as lead vocalist, and Noel Fox and Willie Wynn took over on bass and tenor.
In the 1960s and into the early 1970s, the band achieved some notability in the gospel field, and even won a Grammy. By 1973, Joe Bonsall had taken over on tenor vocals and Richard Sterban on bass, thus forming the most popular and well-known lineup. After a few false starts, including a guest appearance on a low-charting Johnny Cash single and a dud release on Columbia Records, the Oaks broke through in 1977 with the Top Ten hit "Y'all Come Back Saloon". From then until the late 1980s, they would remain a constant fixture on the country charts. "Elvira" and "Bobbie Sue" netted the group a couple crossover pop hits. Although the hits dried up in the 1990s, the Oaks are still recording to this day.
- Badass Beard: William Lee Golden became a mountain man and eventually grew a long, flowing beard that rivals those guys in ZZ Top. This resulted in him being dismissed from the band in 1987, but he was welcomed back in 1995.
- Basso Profondo: Richard Sterban has an impressively deep voice.
- I Will Wait for You: "I'll Be True to You".
- Long Runner Lineup: The Golden/Sterban/Bonsall/Allen lineup (1973-1987) and the Golden/Sterban/Bonsall/Allen lineup (1995-present). You read that right--the lineup fits twice.
- Long Title: "I Wish You Could Have Turned My Head (And Left My Heart Alone)" and "Gonna Take a Lot of River (Mississippi, Monongahela, Ohio)".
- Revolving Door Band Until the Golden/Sterban/Bonsall/Allen lineup was in place.
- Talky Bookends: Present in the video for "Gonna Take a Lot of River".
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Elvira" repeats the chorus several times, each repetition going a semitone higher. Sterban's vocal, however, drops down an octave on the first key change.
- Vocal Tag Team: Although Allen is the de facto lead singer, the band hasn't shied from releasing cuts on which the other members sing lead — even Sterban has gotten lead a few times. Also, all four of them trade the lead vocal on "American Made" and "You're the One".
- But in a weird zig-zagging, Steve Sanders almost always got the lead when he was in the group (except for "True Heart").