Aaron McCune Keeps Bass Singing Alive with Oak Ridge Boys, Dailey & Vincent

Aaron McCune with The Oak Ridge Boys, Key Western Fest

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what version of “country” music you may subscribe to, The Oak Ridge Boys are musical truth—a compass point to set your country music alignment to. Country Music Hall of Famers, Grand Ole Opry members, and, Gospel Music Hall of Famers, they walk out on stage like gods, and when their four-part harmonies are raised to the roof, the soul is filled.

This is exactly what happened at the inaugural Key Western Fest in Key West Florida Thursday night (2-2) when The Oak Ridge Boys headlined the Truman Waterfront Amphitheater on a day that also saw legendary songwriter Paul Overstreet perform, the incomparable Pam Tills take the stage, as well as 90s country rock outfits Blackhawk and Sawyer Brown.

The point of the new Key Western Fest is to put ’90s and other older country artists back on the stage with the resurgence of interest in the era. In truth, The Oak Ridge Boys date well past the 90s to the early 80s when they had most of their hits, but as country music royalty, who’s counting?

The most-recognized and longest-lasting lineup of the Oak Ridge Boys was cemented in 1973 when Joe Bonsall joined William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, and bass singer Richard Sterban in the lineup, but their legacy of the band as a Gospel quartet goes all the way back to the ’40s. On Thursday evening, Duane Allen had to help Joe Bonsall on and off stage, and Bonsall sat on a stool during the performance. “I’ve got a bad leg,” Bonsall explained. “It doesn’t hurt, it’s just … bad,” he told the crowd.

Also missing was bass singer Richard Sterban, who has been taking time away from the band on and off. Sterban is nothing short of a legendary voice in country and Gospel, and sang all those iconic Oak Ridge Boys bass parts on songs like “Elvira” and “American Made.” Just like Harold Reid of The Statler Brothers who passed in 2020, Sterban is part of a breed of bass singers in country music that unfortunately is slowly going the way of the dinosaur.

However, there are still a few around. Josh Turner is one of the few primary singers who can also go down to the bass register. Trace Adkins can as well, even if he’s not a traditional bass singer. Shane Smith & The Saints also feature four-part harmonies with bass. But Aaron McCune, who filled in for Richard Sterban Thursday night at Key Western Fest, is quickly coming up as one of the most important and appreciated bass singers in country music for our time.

Aaron McCune can not only can handle the bass parts to iconic country songs from The Oak Ridge Boys and others, he can go even deeper, and this is bringing the important element of four-part harmonies with bass in country music to a new generation.

Though he does fill-in work for The Oak Ridge Boys, Aaron McCune’s more permanent gig is with the bluegrass duo and Grand Ole Opry members Dailey & Vincent. On the duo’s recent country album Let’s Sing Some Country!, Aaron McCune and his bass voice were featured prominently on the songs “Feels Like That Again” and “Dig a Little Deeper”—the latter of which was recorded by the Oak Ridge Boys in 1979.

Originally from Clay, West Virginia, Aaron McCune previously performed with the Gold City Quartet for five years, and has also sung with Wynonna Judd and Willie Nelson. Both with The Oak Ridge Boys and Dailey & Vincent, he’s performed on the Grand Ole Opry scores of times. McCune is known especially for singing Merle Haggard songs like “The Way I Am” a full octave lower than Merle did, with the final note of the being unreachable for even the greatest bass singers (see below).

A good bass singer like Aaron McCune is an irreplaceable asset for country music, not dissimilar to a great steel guitar player, but even more rare. No matter the outfit he’s singing for, Aaron McCune is one of those irreplaceable singers. Put him right up there with the greatest ever to hold the position, and an important voice of country music moving forward.

To stay up-to-date with the doings at Key Western Fest, follow Saving Country Music on Instagram.

Joe Bonsall
William Lee Golden
Duane Allen
William Lee Golden handing out set lists at the end of the night.
Aaron McCune
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