The Oak Ridge Boys wouldn't know how to get through a year without Christmas.
"Christmas is a very important holiday for us," said Richard Sterban, the man with the resounding bass voice that made "Elvira" famous, in a phone interview with the Globe Monday.
This year's tour is the Oaks' 23rd annual Christmas Tour and they'll bring the show to Dodge City's United Wireless Arena at 5 p.m. Dec. 15.
"And this show is really a bargain," Sterban. "The first 45 minutes we do a mini-version of our regular tour show, with all the hits, including, of course, 'Elvira,' and some newer releases from earlier this year. Then there's an intermission, and after that we do our complete Christmas show."
And the Christmas show covers every aspect of the holiday, from the romantic Christmas and the fun Christmas to the sacred Christmas.
"We have a whole Santa segment. We cover snow, Christmas trees, lights and all the fun parts. Then the sacred side ends the show," Sterban said.
The band has been celebrating Christmas in their theater in Branson for a few days before heading off on their 26-stop Christmas tour.
This year's Christmas tour supports a brand new Christmas album, "Christmas Time's A-Coming," which was released Sept. 25.
"We're not doing the full blown Christmas show in Branson, but we're working on it one section at a time. It's one thing to record a song but getting this many songs stage-ready takes more time," Sterban said.
The Oak Ridge tradition goes back to World War II, when a country/gospel quartet from Knoxville, Tenn., began playing dates in nearby Oak Ridge, where Manhattan Project scientists were working on a military use of fissile isotope uranium: the atomic bomb.
The group, which called itself the Oak Ridge Quartet, began appearing regularly on the Grand Ole Opry and was featured in Time magazine in the mid-1950s as one of the top gospel groups in the country.
Turnover was fast; the group cycled through 30 members in the first 15 years.
By the late 1960s, Duane Allen and William Lee Golden, two current Oak Ridge Boys, had joined the group.
In 1972 they were joined by bass Richard Sterban, who was singing in various quartets and selling men's clothing.
In 1973, the final new member joined: Joe Bonsall, a kid from Philadelphia.
It was advice from Roy Clark's manager, Jim Halsey, that prompted them to focus less on gospel and more on country.
And in 1977 the Oaks released "Y'All Come Back Saloon" and reinvented the country music scene.
That same year, Paul Simon asked the Boys to sign backup for a little tune of his called "Slip Slidin' Away," and the Oaks were on their way.
Page 2 of 2 - The Oaks Treatment
After 40 years, 39 albums and over 30 million records sold, the Oaks still look forward to every one of their 150 performances every year.
"When I go on stage, I get the same feeling I had the first time I sang with The Oak Ridge Boys," lead singer Duane Allen is quoted as saying on the band's Web site, www.oakridgeboys.com.
The Boys have recorded with country greats such as George Jones, Bill Monroe, Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash and Roy Rogers. They've also recorded with Ray Charles.
"You don't hear us singing 'cheating' or 'drinking' songs, but 'loving' songs, because we think that will last," Allen said.
Allen is responsible for bringing new songs and demos to the group.
"And as we listen to each one, we almost know every time who's going to sing lead on that one," Sterban said.
"We have a great new song called 'Peterbilt Sleigh' — so you can guess how Santa makes his entrance in the show — and we all said the only guy who can sing that is Joe," he said.
Once a song is chosen, we just sort of fall into the vocal arrangement naturally around the lead vocal," Sterban said.
By the time it's recorded, the song sounds like an Oaks song, regardless of what it sounded like when it came to them.
Bring the kids
Sterban emphasized that the Christmas show is a kid-friendly family show.
"We want to encourage parents to bring their kids and have some calm holiday time together," he said.
As an example of the tone of the show, Sterban mentioned a segment added only last year.
"We have a great arrangement with the Cracker Barrel restaurants, so they've loaned us four Cracker Barrel rocking chairs. We bring those out, sit around the fireplace and talk about our childhood memories of Christmas, and that leads into 'Joy To the World.' It's a great way to celebrate Christmas."
IF YOU GO
What: Oak Ridge Boys
Classic hits and Christmas tunes
When: 5 p.m. Dec. 16
Where: United Wireless Arena
Tickets: Prices range from $20 to $70
Available from the United Wireless Arena box office