William Lee Golden may be turning 84 today, but he sounds like a man who’s just getting started. Indeed, when we chatted over the phone yesterday, he spoke about upcoming plans to maintain his demanding schedule of touring and recording — not only with his fellow Oak Ridge Boys, but also with his three sons as the ensemble known as William Lee Golden and The Goldens. To paraphrase a line from a currently ubiquitous TV commercial: If age is just a number, his is unlisted.
Here are some highlights from our conversation, edited for clarity and brevity.
Cowboy & Indians: First off, Happy Birthday to you, sir. As a younger man, did you think you would make it this long?
William Lee Golden: [Laughs] Man, I was hoping so. My grandfathers, they lived over 85. In fact, one of my grandfathers lived to be 94. He fell and hit his head and had an accident and he passed away, but he was still getting around pretty good until then. That’s something that you face every day, and every day can be a challenge if you’re not careful.
C&I: Besides your music, what else keeps you young?
Golden: Sometimes I find that the older I get, the more I have to activate myself, and stay active and do stuff. You need to activate yourself and make sure that all the parts are working, and get your cardio going, and get yourself pumped up and ready to stand up. In the morning, I do a couple hundred sit-ups. Like, I do 100 and catch my breath for about a half a minute, and then do another 100, and slowly breathe in, breathe out. It makes me feel better, and it helps me to sing better. It gets my diaphragm going and keeps me firm, rather than allowing me to sit around and relax and let my belly hang.
C&I: And we’ve talked about this before — you even managed to keep active during the Covid lockdown.
Golden: Yeah, for about a week or so, I watched the news like most people were doing, and all I was seeing was negativity and hate, everybody hating everybody and violence on there. I had to turn it off, get away from it. And it was then that all of these old songs kept flooding my mind just day after day. And I called my family together, my kids, and we got together and started singing songs. And we found healing in old songs, mentally and emotionally — physical and spiritual healing. And so I recorded 34 songs with my sons Chris, Rusty, Craig. We did three albums as William Lee Golden and The Goldens.
And then with my Oak Ridge Boys, we did an album called Front Porch Singin’ during the pandemic. And I wrote an autobiography with Scott England. He helped me write it and he interviewed me countless times. He’d come sit on the front porch with me, and we’d talk during the pandemic. For six or eight months, we would get together two or three times a week for a couple of hours, and he was recording all that. So he put it all together.
C&I: And now?
Golden: What I’m doing now is, I’m out with The Oak Ridge Boys. We just finished 32 Christmas shows at the Gaylord Opryland Resort Hotel here in Nashville. And so that was our third year in a row to do our Christmas shows at Opryland. And we go back out on tour this weekend. We’re headed down to Texas. We’ll be in Greenville Friday night. Then we’ll be in Galveston Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. And then from there, the following week we’re out in Florida, like three different dates, and we’ll sing on a cruise there one day.
And then when they’re not busy, I’m doing things with my sons and our band. My sons are great singers and musicians. And we’ve got three or four more guys that play and sing with us when we’re with a family band. So that’s what we’re doing, man. And it’s been so much fun to be out there and sing these songs, most of them we recorded during the pandemic. All these great old songs that are the fabric of our life, and of us loving music and wanting to be in music, by some of the great songwriters of all time. And that’s what music is about. It’s a way to communicate our feelings and our expressions sometimes. Our hearts and our souls communicate through songs.
C&I: Can you give some health tips for some of us whippersnappers?
Golden: Well, man, it’s an everyday thing. You’ve got to be excited about every day. At least, I am. If you get up feeling good, that’s a good day. So you get up and get out there and whatever it is you love to do, go do it. And my days are busy. I’m the guy that feeds the wildlife and the animals around our property, and I’m the guy that cleans up the mess. And I stay active. And the more active I stay, the better I feel. You know, we sit too much. I have to get off my can and get out there and take walks. At least we have a nice walking greenway that’s just right across the street from where we live and across the creek there. I go out the front gate across the creek and I’m on the greenway. So that’s what I do.
C&I: Any special plans for Thursday?
Golden: Man, I just want to wake up, be happy, and be alive and keep kicking. And if anybody wants to come over and sing a song, they’re all welcome. And if they don’t, I’ll sing by myself.