PLANT CITY — Scan the list of No. 1 country songs from 1981 and you'll find a number of acts that have faded from the spotlight in the decades that followed.
The Oak Ridge Boys, however, remain a vibrant and successful presence after Elvira and the unforgettable "oom papa mow mow" of bass singer Richard Sterban went to top of the country charts and crossed over to become a major pop hit in 1981.
Three of the four, Sterban, Joe Bonsall and Duane Allen, are in their 60s. William Lee Golden, with his trademark beard, turned 73 in January. But they don't plan on slowing down.
"We love what we do," Sterban said last week when asked to explain the group's longevity. "Even after all these years, we still enjoy doing this. We have no plans to retire because we're still having fun."
The quartet brings its four-part harmonies back to the opening day of the Florida Strawberry Festival on Thursday, making at least its 10th appearance in Plant City. The group even has some new songs to showcase.
The Boys' latest CD, It's Only Natural, is selling well (and exclusively) at Cracker Barrel restaurants. It features re-recordings of hits plus new music such as Whatcha Gonna Do, which has received airplay.
A new gospel-tinged release hits shelves in May, and the group will soon go back into the studio to record its sixth Christmas album. They play more than 150 shows a year, many during November and December because fans flock to hear their holiday music.
Sterban said they won't play any Christmas songs Thursday, but they will include favorites such as Bobbie Sue, Y'all Come Back Saloon, American Made and Thank God For Kids. New songs also will make the playlist.
"Part of our longevity comes from the fact we try to reinvent ourselves a little bit," Sterban said. "We're still the Oak Ridge Boys, but I think our new music is a little more relevant to the current marketplace."
Sterban noted a number of other factors in explaining their success, not the least being blessed with good health. In the end, however, there may be one simple key: No one else in country music quite has a sound like the Oak Ridge Boys.