[ M U S I C ] BY DEBORAH EVANS PRICE
An Oak Grows
When the hit-making country quartet the
Oak Ridge Boys is inducted into the Country
Music Hall of Fame this month, longtime
member Richard Sterban will break ground as
the first New Jersey native so enshrined in the
54-year history of the Nashville institution.
Considering his resonant bass voice on
such Oak Ridge Boys hits as “Elvira,” “Dream
On” and “Bobbie Sue,” it’s hard to imagine
that Sterban started as a boy soprano. “By
seventh grade, I was singing tenor,” says
Sterban, who was born in Camden, raised
in Oaklyn and went to Collingswood High
School. “The summer between my seventh-and eighth-grade years, my voice made a
drastic change,” he recalls. His teacher put
him in the bass section. “I’ve been there ever
since,” he says.
Sterban studied voice at Trenton State
College (now the College of New Jersey) and
performed with several vocal groups, eventually spending nearly two years backing Elvis
Presley on tour. It was a sweet gig, but Sterban
jumped at a chance to join the Oaks in 1972.
“History has proven that I made a pretty
good decision,” he declares.
Although a longtime fixture in the
Nashville community, Sterban hasn’t lost his
Jersey connections. A number of years ago,
he fulfilled a dream of owning a place at the
Shore by purchasing two condos in Atlantic
City. Too busy to spend much time there, he
has since sold the condos, but he still visits a
sister, aunts and cousins who live in Jersey—
and he still has his Jersey pride.
“New Jersey gets a bad rap,” he says.
“Sometimes when I say I’m from New Jersey,
people will actually even laugh. But one thing
for sure, when you say you are from New
Jersey, you are going to get some kind of a
reaction, good or bad.” ;
Marie Presley at the
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