Nobody can get lower than Richard Sterban.
You know - he's the bass of the Oak Ridge Boys who sings the "giddyup do pompa mow mow" part of the group's signature tune, "Elvira," at a range below most household basements.For Sterban, "Elvira" is still the highlight of the show.
"When I do the `pompa mow mow,' even the young kids in grade school are hollerin' and screamin'," Sterban said.
The single is still considered the most popular ever recorded in Nashville, and the crowning event of the "Oaks' " fruitful career.
"It's just a little phrase that's pure, wholesome entertainment and makes you feel good," he said. "And it made us feel good because it bought us all new houses."
Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and Steve Sanders will join Sterban on stage July 2 at the Stadium of Fire in Brigham Young University's Cougar Stadium. Also performing will be the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Mickey Mouse's Toon Time Friends.
Sterban's career as a booming bass singer has its beginnings in the early '70s with Elvis Presley's backup group, the Stamps. He sang on three long-playing albums, five single records and several movies with the King of Rock 'n Roll.
"We used to spend hours backstage with a guitar harmonizing different songs," Sterban said. "He would try to show me that he could sing bass like me."
He said he also remembers Elvis as the most disciplined entertainer he ever met.
"I have very fond memories of Elvis," Sterban recalled. "I saw nothing that coincides with what everyone's read about."
After joining the then-struggling Oak Ridge Boys in 1972, Sterban said he remembers early success coming from Utah support.
"When we first started singing together as a gospel group, we would come to the Utah State Fair to perform," he said. "We had some early sucess in a little part of the grandstand and then we were headlining a little bit later."
Since that time, Sterban strengthened his Utah ties by becoming part-owner of the Salt Lake Gulls Triple A baseball team and performing with the Oak Ridge Boys several times in Salt Lake City and Provo.
Today, the Oak Ridge Boys are acclaimed by some as "The Rolling Stones of country music" because of their staying power in the country music scene, and are known for their special four-part harmony.
"Nobody in music has the harmony we have," he said. "When we sing, there is no mistaking who it is."
The Oaks' first sucess came after they shed their gospel music approach to espouse a more upbeat, country music sound. Their first single was "Y'All Come Back Saloon," in 1977. Four years later they scored their first platinum album with "Elvira," and "Bobbie Sue" a year later.
Since then the group has focused its sound more on a conservative American theme, with songs like "American Made" in 1983, "Touch a Hand, Make A Friend" in 1985 and "An American Family" in 1989.
"We never lay out heavy political messages," Sterban said. "We lay out a good positive feeling, and if you can make people forget their problems and worries - you're helping people."
Their last hit song was "Lucky Moon" in 1991, and the Oaks expect to cut an album for release in 1995.
"We have been around for a long time because we enjoy what we do," Sterban said. "We haven't had a hit record in about three years, but we know we can still attract a good crowd with our stage presence. We are never content with sitting on our laurels."
Which is why the Oaks changed their busy touring schedule to come to Provo for America's Freedom Festival. Sterban said close contacts with the Children's Miracle Network, Marie Osmond and a love for America contributed to the scheduling change.
"We like to think of ourselves as a symbol of patriotism in the country, and when we close the show with the national anthem, people are on their feet," Sterban said. "It's because we have all been raised to feel that the States are the most important thing we have, and we like to preach that message."