The Oak Ridge Boys will perform at the funeral in Houston for President George H.W. Bush, who passed away on Friday, Nov. 30. The quartet promised the 41st president that they would sing his favorite hymn, "Amazing Grace," prior to his passing.
Band member Duane Allen was the first to get to know Bush in the 1960s, when he was hired, along with some of his friends, to pass out promotional flyers for the politician, who was running for office in Texas. Two decades later, when Bush was vice president, the Oak Ridge Boys were at the White House to perform. Although Bush had to leave for a trip to Africa, he made sure to hear their four-part harmonies in person.
"We were doing soundcheck and here came this long and lanky guy with a bag over his shoulder running toward the stage from the White House," Allen recalled to the Tennessean. "He said, "I'm a huge country music fan and you're my favorite group. Is there any way you can do some songs for me?'"
Instead of some of their hits, Bush requested obscure album cuts, showing the quartet how much he was already a fan, and kicking off a lifelong friendship.
"That was the start of our relationship with George H.W. Bush," Allen said. "We sang for him at his call after that. We'd fly to Kennebunkport [Maine] with our wives, and stay in their house and spend the summertime with them together. We last went two years ago and had lunch with them. Those were some of the most special times in our lives."
The Oak Ridge Boys will get on a private plane after their performance in Spokane, Wash. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, and fly to Houston. Following the service, they will fly back to Spokane – an exhausting 24 hours that they insist is the least they can do.
"It's what you do for friends," Allen stated simply.
"President Bush means so much to us," added Oak Ridge Boys' member Richard Sterban. "George Bush requested before he passed away that we sing 'Amazing Grace,' his favorite song, at his funeral. There's no way we wouldn't do it. He always taught us to do the right thing, and it is a tremendous honor. One final time here on this earth, we're going to sing it for him and we believe in our hearts we'll see him again one day and we'll sing it for him again."0comments
A funeral for the former POTUS will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the National Cathedral. Following the service, Bush's body will be flown back to Houston, where he will lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church from 7:45 p.m. ET Wednesday until 7 a.m. ET Thursday morning. A memorial service will be held in Houston at 11 a.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 6.
Photo Credit: Getty images/Alison Buck