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Oak Ridge Boys share memories of close friend President George HW Bush at Boise tour stop

It's the story of an unlikely friendship, between a president remembered for his unending dedication to his country and a band worthy of the Country Music Hall of Fame (CBS 2 [Abigail Taylor] and AP [Lawrence Jackson] photo).

The Oak Ridge Boys, close friends of President George Bush, performed in Boise Monday night as part of their annual Christmas tour.

CBS 2 sat down with the band ahead of the concert for an exclusive interview about their unlikely friendship with the president — built upon a humble appreciation.

"More so than George Bush being the President of the United States, he was a friend of ours," said Richard Sterban, member of the Oak Ridge Boys.

The friendship, between a president remembered for his unending dedication to his country and a band worthy of the Country Music Hall of Fame, began in 1982.

The Oak Ridge Boys were asked to perform at the Congressional barbecue by President Ronald Reagan. George HW Bush was Vice President at the time.

"He came down to the stage and said "boys, I am a big fan of yours," said Duane Allen, member of the Oak Ridge Boys. "He said, 'I've got to go to Africa. I can't make it to the concert tonight. Would you do some songs for me right now?'"

Sure enough, the Oaks played a private show for him, including a list of songs he requested off of their album that they say proved he was a devoted fan.

It wasn't the last concert the Oak Ridge Boys performed for George Bush.

"They would have the Oak Ridge Boys to sing in the living room," said William Lee Golden, remembering summers spent at the Bush's home in Kennebunkport, Maine. "We would give a private, few minutes concert there to the Bush family and all of their friends... It was a lot of special memories that we'll all hold dear as long as we live."

From Birthday celebrations to singing on the Air Force One, the Oak Ridge Boys say they performed for the president every time they were asked — near or far.

"Every single time we've ever performed for George and Barbara was a special time," said Joe Bonsall, member of the Oak Ridge Boys. "Including when he was sick several times in the hospital, we would gather around an iPhone and sing to the president in the hospital."

They started singing for President Bush in 1982 and continued through the decades.

Now, on Thursday, they'll break from their Christmas tour and fly to Houston in the early morning hours for the president's funeral where they will sing for him one last time.

"It's going to be a harsh couple of days, but we have to do it," said Joe. "You do what we have to do."

"It's what's right," said Duane. "That's what we learned from him. Do what's right."

Following the funeral, the Oak Ridge Boys' 2018 Shine the Light on Christmas tour will continue, with several more stops in the West.



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