It’s time to celebrate!
The year was 1981…
- Ronald Reagan was President of the United States.
- Walter Cronkite signed off the CBS News Evening News for the last time.
- MTV launched as a new music cable channel.
- And The Oak Ridge Boys’ double platinum single Elvira soared up the Billboard Pop and Country radio charts.
The single, which was released in February, debuted on the Billboard Country chart on April 4. By September, the record had earned the Number One position on both the Country and Pop radio charts.
Last year, AOL’s The Boot picked Elvira as the Number One Catchiest Song in Country music history, saying “Everybody's heart was on fire in 1981 for The Oak Ridge Boys ‘Elvira,' who had ‘eyes that looked like heaven, and lips like cherry wine.’”
Oom Poppa Mow Mow appears four times in the original recording of the song. With encores, most live performances feature the phrase, made famous by Oaks’ bass singer Richard Sterban, at least twice that many times.
Duane Allen remembers: “The first time we performed Elvira in front of an audience was at an afternoon rehearsal for The Tonight Show. We were not set to perform it on the show that night, but we had just recorded it and decided to sing it for a sound check. By the time we got half through the song, the producer, assistants, secretaries, sound and light people, and all of the people who could hear us, came running over and freaking out. Those Tonight Show people gave us the first ‘reading’ of how Elvira was going to be received.
Then we flew to Spokane, Washington, where we had a show the next evening. At that time, we’d already had about a dozen hits, and most of those had been very big, so every time we would start the introduction to each hit, the audience immediately responded because they knew the instrumental intro to our songs.
About thirty minutes into our show, we pulled out Elvira for the very first public performance to a paid audience. The audience went crazy. Elvira immediately got more of a response, at a much higher level, than any hit we had performed up until that point in the show. We had to sing it three times before the audience would stop clapping. They were dancing and screaming in their seats, standing up, dancing in the aisles. It was amazing!!!!! We finally went on with the rest of our show and performed our normal last song, and an encore. But the audience would not stop...they were screaming Elvira, so we had to sing it one more time before we could leave the building.
Recently, we were back in Spokane and many of the same stagehands were there. They said they remembered that night as ‘the night The Oak Ridge Boys tore down the house’ with Elvira.”
The first time the Oaks sang Elvira on national network television was on the Tomorrow show hosted by Tom Snyder.
Elvira is a girl's name, but the song was not written about a person.
Dallas Frazier, the songwriter, remembers: The song title, “Elvira,” came from a street sign in East Nashville, Tennessee. My publisher Ray Baker and I were coming home from Nashville, on Gallatin Road, headed toward Madison, Tennessee, where we lived at that time. There was a side street on the left and, as we approached it, the name “Elvira” locked on to my eyes. I’ve always loved earthy names and this one was a prize! I started laughing and making up a chorus. Ray and I both had been into the “happy juice” as we usually were in those days. (Thank the Lord we’re both done with that.) The more I blues’d it up the more we laughed. Before we got to Madison (only a few miles) I had the chorus! Rhyming “Elvira” with “Fira” was instantaneous! The song was finished shortly after. This happened sometime in 1965. I recorded the song for Capitol, and it was released as an R & B single. It had some success but nothing like the Oaks. God bless The Oak Ridge Boys! I cannot imagine ever having a better cut on “Elvira.” Thanks guys!