For several decades, the Oak Ridge Boys have entertained fans in Kentucky at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center and the Kentucky State Fair. It has been tradition that the historic country music group plays at both each year. Once again, they showcased their vocal harmonies, as well as shared stories in front of a sold out crowd at Renfro Valley.
Prior to the show, I joined up with my pal, John Herndon, who is a sports writer for the Anderson News. His wife was with him and my fiancé’ joined us as we met up with Joe Bonsall. John conducted an interview that will be appearing closer to the KY State Fair. As soon as it is up, I’ll be sure to share a link. I won’t spoil any surprises in that interview, but I did get to ask one question in regards to the Opry. I plan on making that a separate blog post soon.
John Herndon interviewing Joe Bonsall – photo by Jessica Blankenship
After we spent some time with Joe, we ended up speaking with Paul Martin and his wonderful family. They are from Kentucky and we got to talking about RS Guitarworks, which is based out of Winchester, Kentucky. A childhood friend of mine, Monti, works for RS Guitarworks. They have built quite a few guitars for Marty Stuart, as well as Ben Haggard, the son of Merle Haggard.
The backstage area all of a sudden became a clutter of excited fans buzzing with talking and laughter. Duane Allen arrives and goes down the row shaking each and every hand. The rest of the Oak Ridge Boys file in and fans cheer and raise up their cameras to take a few quick snaps. One by one, fans walked up to the group to get a photo and items signed. We stood at the back of the line and it was our turn. My fiancé has a beard as well, and of course he and William Lee Golden discuss beards briefly. It was comical indeed.
Hanging out with the Oak Ridge Boys at Renfro Valley
It was time for us to get to our seats, so we walked around the backstage area and came out side stage where a sold out crowd sat in their seats. We took our seats down on the front row center, in between where Joe Bonsall and Duane Allen would stand. It wouldn’t be long that the music would start and the band would file out onto the stage.
Oak Ridge Boys from our view – photo by Jessica Blankenship
For two solid hours, country music fans were given a whirl of a ride of hits of the Oak Ridge Boys. At the beginning of the show, Joe Bonsall would mention Doug Flynn, the former Cincinnati Reds player, in the audience. He also made mention that I was there and John was there, as well as the cookie man and others. The most touching moment would be when he said that the show was dedicated in memory of Eric Hall. Eric was a fellow Kentuckian and Oak Ridge Boys fan. We had planned on meeting at this particular show, but he passed away a few weeks ago due to a car accident in Nashville.
We were also given the treat of hearing Paul Martin’s family, the Martin Family Circus, perform the hit tune, “Happy.” Now let me tell you, this group is full of love and happiness and it shows both on and off the stage.
Martin Family Circus – photo by Jessica Blankenship
The Oak Ridge Boys sang a wide variety of hit songs, including a few from their recently released record of hymns. What a blessing that was to hear them sing the hymnals. Two songs I wish I could have heard live last night – “Same Ole Me” that they sang with George Jones, and “Farther Along.” (Pss – hey Joe, add that to the set next Renfro Valley round!) However, I am SO happy to get to hear “Mama’s Table” (written by Jamey Johnson) and “Little Things.”
One funny moment was during “Little Things” and Paul Martin did an extended steel guitar slide. Joe Bonsall ended up getting tickled and forgot where he was after asking Paul to finish off the “longest guitar slide of all guitar slides.” Then Joe talked about that the show about didn’t happen when they found out that there was no fried chicken as the restaurant across the street was no longer open. Never fail, they were able to get chicken from the other restaurant. (It is a running joke that Renfro Valley is the only stage they are completely full from fried chicken.)
Oak Ridge Boys – photo by Jessica Blankenship
William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys – photo by Jessica Blankenship
Joe Bonsall hitting the high notes – photo by Jessica Blankenship
Below is the set list of their Renfro Valley show. As always, the Oak Ridge Boys would end their set with “Elvira” followed up with “Bobby Sue.”
As we left, we looked around us of those in the crowd. Multiple generations stood up on their feet to give applause and cheer loudly. It is very rare in the music industry that a musical act could entertain audiences over decades and with ease. Their voices are far from giving up as they continue to give it their all. It is no secret that you get your money’s worth and a lifetime of memories thanks to the Oak Ridge Boys.
Oak Ridge Boys Renfro Valley Entertainment Center Set List
Jessica Bray is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.