A singer his whole life, William Lee Golden also has found music in pictures – with his paint brushes and cameras.
The baritone from the Oak Ridge Boys – in a lineup begun in 1973, with Duane Allen on lead, tenor Joe Bonsall, and bass Richard Sterban – said his pastimes with painting, then photography, emerged through the band’s travels, from his getting out from hotels – even renting a car – and finding “beautiful spots” in such places as national and state parks.
The Oaks will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 1 at the Alabama Theatre, at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach. Buy tickets at 843-272-1111, 800-342-2262 or www.alabama-theatre.com.
In a phone call last month from home in Tennessee, Golden said his serious side with snapshots, and upgrading his equipment and lenses for more professional quality, arose from his painting days, when he would take “reference photos” for visuals to put on canvas.
An exhibit of his art and photos earlier this decade at Pensacola International Airport in Florida’s Panhandle, gave Golden an honor “close to home,” near where he grew up in southern Alabama and still has family.
Golden said he first took up painting 15 years ago – and hauling his easel, paints and canvas among his luggage – he’s done all such works during band tours. From his gradual immersion in photography “and getting better images,” he said, he saw skilled camera work’s use and value “in fine art settings.” Those include his serene cover photo, with three anglers on a boat, for the 2016-17 booklet for the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce in Tennessee.
The senses and feelings that have gone into music translated to expression he makes through painting and pictures.
“It’s part of the creative side of whoever we are,” said Golden, who, when pictured, stands out with his long white hair and beard.
The Oaks are members of the Grand Ole Opry and Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and their gospel roots were first planted by the Oak Ridge Quartet in Tennessee in the 1940s. Through the decades, and various men who have lent their voices, the current foursome eventually wove in their country sound to start the 1980s, leading to such hits as “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue,” “Thank God for Kids” and “American Made.”
Golden they learned of their induction at the Country Music Hall of Fame for 2015 when they were huddled in the dressing room after an Opry concert.
“We were just stunned and speechless,” he said, glad they all sat successfully, as requested, on that “secret for the next three months.”
Such recognition celebrates “love and passion for what you’re doing,” Golden said.
Speaking a week after the Opry welcomed the bluegrass duo Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent into “the family,” Golden commended those “friends of ours,” especially for lending their bass singer to substitute deep chops for Sterban’s when he took time off to grieve his mother’s death.
With his own family count of four sons, a daughter, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, Golden said the familiarity the Oaks have in playing the Alabama Theatre twice a year – also on Oct. 21 – always bring them to “a beautiful part of country” for “a refreshing and beautiful day.” He said son Chris Golden, a drummer, not only has kept the beat for the Oaks, but Alabama a few times, too.
Keeping fit for more than 150 concerts a year, the Oaks approach their health regimen “like athletes” in some ways.
“We work hard and stay in shape to play the game,” said Golden, who likes stringing together 100 sit-ups in groups of 25, to help groom him “for the day.”
“You don’t want to struggle to sing,” he said. You want it to flow out.”
Asked about a feature photo touting the Oak Ridge Boys’ 2017 tour, with the men flanking a red pickup and a golden retriever sitting front and center, Golden said that farm scene was chosen along “a beaten path and road.” The host family’s friendly pooch, Mabel, “just wanted to be right there,” Golden said.
“We wanted to take advantage of the natural setting,” he said – perhaps with a photographer’s perspective to boot.
If you go
WHO: The Oak Ridge Boys
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 1 (and Oct. 21)
WHERE: Alabama Theatre, at Barefoot Landing, on U.S. 17 in North Myrtle Beach
HOW MUCH: $40.95, $48.95 or $57.95.