WILLIAM LEE GOLDEN & THE GOLDENS re-release “Take It Easy” – with Web-Exclusive Interview




Video:  “Take It Easy”




Country Music Hall of Fame living legend William Lee Golden has an incredibly distinctive voice that you immediately connect it with The Oak Ridge Boys. But this new set of albums is with his other boys—his sons.

This re-release of “Take It Easy” is for today’s official Worldwide push on radio. William Lee Golden says “‘Take It Easy’ has always been a family favorite and since this is the 50th Anniversary for the song, it seemed appropriate to include on our new project. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as we enjoyed creating it.”

“The video really captures the essence of the song,” Golden said. “Although we love the Eagles’ version tremendously, we wanted to do something a little bit different, which I feel we did.” Golden wants the song to inspire listeners to “simply ’Take It Easy.’” “I hope for even five minutes this song will help people forget about all of the problems in the world,” he said.

William Lee has been the recognizable baritone for The Oak Ridge Boys since 1964-1987 and 1995-present. The Oaks were mainly gospel and he was the one who steered them into country music.

The Goldens’ recently released three-album set includes Country Roads: Vintage Country ClassicsSouthern Accents: Pop & Country Rock and Old Country Church Gospel.


When you listen to these three albums, you can hear William Lee Golden and the Goldens give that family feeling where you feel like you’re in the same room with them—sitting around the living room, singing together and just having fun.

“Going into the studio with my boys was a dream come true,” shares William Lee Golden. ”At times, I wondered if it was ever going to happen. Now, after nearly two years since starting this project and what turned into a three-volume set will finally be available for the world to hear. We actually went back into the studio to record “Take It Easy” since this year marks the 50th Anniversary since its release with the Eagles.”

They even received praise from The Oaks’ Joe Bonsall who says, “I am so proud of William Lee. This three-album set is masterful and heartfelt! Golden has always been about family and music and along with his boys they have created a musical masterpiece and besides that, I find the retro feel of the great old songs quite appealing.”

William Lee Golden and the Goldens consist of another recognizable singer, Craig Golden, Rusty Golden, Chris Golden and bass singer Aaron McCune. You can hear them give that family feeling on the Eagles’ hit “Take It Easy.” It feels like you’re in the room with them—sitting around in a living room, singing together and just having fun.

We spoke with William Lee Golden, Chris Golden and Rusty Golden about music, songwriting and simple things that keep the family together.


with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

What did you learn about yourself after you recorded each of these three albums?
William Lee: 34 songs were cut during the pandemic. We want the people to hear all that we’ve done.
Rusty: Because we’ve got 34 more songs to record! (Laughs) I learned new ways to sing because of Ben Isaacs and Michael Sykes’ contribution. They’re just geniuses.
William Lee: They just know so much about producing and arranging harmonies. They would be in the control room during the sessions—singing the harmonies, and they taught Chris and Rusty chord structures in singing harmonies—different than what these guys were used to singing.

Why is this album important to you?
William Lee: I took my sons back to where I came from. This is how it all started out for me, as a little kid—playing music and singing with my sister, who was a little older. She played mandolin and I played rhythm guitar, when I was seven years old. I used to play guitar and we would sing duets—old country songs. Later, my little brother joined us singing—and we then had a trio. We’d get to sing once a week on Granddaddy Golden’s radio show. From there, we’d sing in little churches in our part of the country—south Alabama and northwest Florida—and little high schools and different events. It was fun.

When did you start singing in quartets?
William Lee: First time I sang in a quartet was when I was in high school—in an FFA quartet [Future Farmers of America]. That was in the 11th grade and it gave me another dimension of singing in four-part harmony. Singing that way, I wound up laying my guitar down and got into singing more harmonies. That’s how I got involved with meeting the Oak Ridge Boys—and becoming a member of The Oaks in 1965-1987 and then 1995-present. It’s been quite a ride.

So you guys grew up with your Dad being on stage.
Chris: Rusty and I got a double dose of it growing up because my Dad’s family was talented—his grandfather played the fiddle and his sister played the mandolin, piano and sang. But our mother’s side was also very musical—she was one of eight brothers and sisters, and they all played instruments and sang. Dad used to be a fan and loved to hear them sing. We had a lot of family harmony going on—on both sides.

Were there other family musicians?
Chris: Our grandmother, Dad’s mother, was a poet and a writer. Rusty took up after her. He’s been the primary writer of the group. But on this project, we went back and did some of those old songs and a lot of the classics that we grew up on. No originals on this album—just old cover songs.
William Lee: Covering old songs from our childhood up until now has been special. I told my sons when we got into the recording studio, “Hey guys, I want to hear some of your influences.” They grew up with me taking them to rock ’n’ roll concerts. Anytime someone came into town and I was home, we’d get tickets to seem them. We’ve shared music together for years. Here, we all went back to songs that influenced us. On our third album, Chris sang Tom Petty’s “Southern Accent” song; Rusty sang Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights”; and Craig, my third son, sang Greg Allman’s “Multi-Colored Lady.” And my grandson Elijah sang two songs with Chris and Rusty. They even recorded “Elvira” and “Bobby Sue” on this thing!

How were these albums different from the way The Oaks approached Front Porch Singin’?
Rusty: My Dad got to choose every song. (Laughs) That’s the difference!
William Lee: We started doing this project about a week or so before The Oaks went into the studio with Dave Cobb. And we had already recorded 13 old gospel songs when I went in the following week with the Oaks. Then, when I finished Front Porch Singin’, I came back to the studio with Chris and Rusty and we finished recording the second and third albums. We recorded from August through October for all three projects.
Chris: But it all started in this room we’re in right now. It started around this grand piano. It’s a nice beautiful grand piano. It’s actually the first piece of furniture Dad bought for this house. He actually bought this before he bought a bed!
William Lee: I did!
Chris: The album started right here—getting together, playing songs, getting the keys down and trying to work up a few little arrangements—and having songs come to us and then somebody would call out another song.
William Lee: We’ve been rehearsing in here for the past couple of days to get ready for our album release party—for all three albums: a gospel album, an old country album and a country rock album with some old pop songs, where my grandson Elijah sang the great old R&B song “Stand By Me”—and it’s incredible.

This family project must be special in so many ways.
William Lee: This is the type of music we did when we got together and kept singing—old songs, great songs. When you’re living in a pandemic, you don’t want to be singing about the pandemic. I wanted to go back to the songs that gave us hope, feeling and love in our heart throughout the years. This project started because I wanted to get together with my sons. They’re both extremely talented. Craig’s talented, but these guys (Chris and Rusty) are musicians, singers and record producers. They do all of it and they’re multi-talented. Chris plays mandolin, acoustic and rhythm guitar, drums and even piano on the Tom Petty song on this album.
Chris: When you (points to me) were talking about those nine years that Dad was not with the Oak Ridge Boys, we were all out on the road together. Rusty and I had recorded an album for Capitol Records. Actually, we started out on Columbia (Epic) Records, then went to Capitol SBK Records. In those nine years, we took that family vacation that we’d never taken together. We were all out on the road touring and recording, but it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do it together again.

From a songwriter’s perspective, how do these classic songs inspire you?
Rusty: When you hear great classic songs, a songwriter’s first instinct is “Wow! I wish I’d have thought of that idea!” The really good ones hit me that way. When I record songs that somebody else wrote, I try to do the type of songs I wished I would have written.

I grew up with Jim Reeves’ “Four Walls” written in 1951 by Marvin J. Moore (lyrics) and George H. Campbell, Jr. (music).
Rusty: It’s funny but for this project, especially the first two albums (the gospel and the classic 50s and 60s country), there were a few songs that I really didn’t know. I didn’t know “Four Walls.” I knew “Hello Walls” [made popular in 1961 by Faron, written by Willie Nelson]. I knew the melody, the end of the chorus, but I didn’t know the chorus or the words. That was a new song to me. And there were quite a few of those songs on this project. A lot of the gospel songs, I definitely remember hearing as a child—but there were some I had to learn.

Has your own art (paintings) influenced your music?
William Lee: I haven’t painted for the past five or six years. I took up painting because I had a great appreciation for art. I have several friends who are incredible artists. Some of them have passed on, God rest them. Beautiful art was something I had a passion for—and I took the time to paint when my youngest son was little. I would get instructional videos of young contemporary artists teaching painting. I kept studying them and painted for about 12 years.
Rusty: Then, you replaced it with photography.
William Lee: In life, you go through phases—you get into one thing and move on to something else. When I quit painting, I got more into photography—to get better cameras to take better landscape shots—to be able to use as a reference to paint. I then realized I was such a slow painter. It would take me six months to finish a nice piece. I did all of my painting on the road, in hotel rooms—over a 12-13 year period of time.

Tell us one favorite memory of working with Booker T. Jones and Joe Walsh.
William Lee: Back in 1986, I recorded the first solo album in Memphis. Joe Walsh recorded on one of the last albums I did with The Oaks before they voted me out.
Chris: Dad went to Memphis, and on that same album that Booker T. did—for all you credit readers—Larry Crane (from John Mellencamp’s band) played the acoustics; Chad Cromwell (who was playing drums for Joe Walsh, Neil Young and Bonnie Raitt)—he’s one of the most recorded drummers out of Nashville—it was an all-star band. During that time, Rusty and I had spent a few years going back and forth to Muscle Shoals with Roger Hawkins and David Hood taking us under their wing. I tell people that’s where I got my Master’s degree. (Laughs) They really taught us how to make records down there. David Hood is the last remaining guy from the Muscle Shoals rhythm section—who I always thought was the Mount Rushmore of rhythm sections—along with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett.
Rusty: Sorry, Motown and Stax. (Laughs)
William Lee: David played bass on 21 of these 34 songs.

What are your favorite memories from doing these three albums?
William Lee: Getting my sons together and allowing them to put their musical feelings into all this wonderful music. During the time I was voted out of The Oaks, and then voted me back in, these are the guys I did music with. My sons and I spent about eight years doing music together. Playing music as a family—that’s what I loved. I gained a new respect for my sons as talented and seasoned musicians. They have a great feel for music. It has simplicity but a heart-felt feel. We had an amazing group of musicians in the studio with us. It was a tight-knit group of people. It was during the pandemic and unfortunately Ben Isaacs came down with Covid and missed the first sessions, but he was watching the video monitors in the studio.
Chris: They have cameras all over the studio, so it really helped him be a part of those sessions.
Rusty: We videotaped everything we did. (Laughs)
William Lee: Jeff Panzer was directing the videos from LA. He’s a top hip-hop video producer. He did all of Nelly, Lil’ Wayne, Nikki Minaj and Drake’s first album videos. He captured all of our recordings—every day. They had about four or five cameras in each recording session.
Chris: My main memory was saying, “Son, I done told you—get that thing out of my face!” (Laughs)

Tell us about your early career. Do you remember the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
William Lee: I remember when we heard our first country record, Y’all Come Back Saloon (1977)—that The Oaks released. We were at a truck stop in Texas and someone said, “Hey look! We’re on the jukebox!” And that day—we played our own record on the jukebox! And man, it was wild to stand there and hear your own record on the jukebox. We kept putting quarters in and kept playing it.
Chris: I remember driving through Nashville and hearing our song “Sorry Girls” over WSIX, with Gerry House. Rusty and I did that album on Epic Records. I wanted to pull over, but there were five lanes of traffic and we really couldn’t. I wanted to crank it up and look at the guy in traffic next to me and go, “I’m on the radio!”
Rusty: First time I heard one of my songs, I was in a group called the Boys Band, and there was a rock station here, WKDF. I was out at Rivergate coming out of the Shoe Locker place and getting into my car. The song started up and I pulled over on the side of the road—and cried.

In this unique socio-political climate, how do you remain hopeful?
Chris: Dad always said that music has a healing power. It was during that time when we first started recording. We had just laid our mother to rest. It was a sad time. We all went in and started recording these gospel songs and it did become a healing process for everybody—to get our minds back into what we love to do. We wanted to share our gifts, hoping that the same joy and the same healing that we got by recording these songs and being together—would translate to the people who would hear these songs that have meant so much to us through the years.
Rusty: It’s the first time we all had been in the same room together—for that long a period of time—since the old days when Dad wasn’t with the Oaks—and we were riding down the road together.
Chris: During that time, Rusty and I were recording albums, and Dad was recording solo albums, but we had never really recorded anything together. We had our own label deal. Dad was doing solo albums for Mercury Records, and we were doing different things with Capitol Records. We had toured together, but we had never recorded together like that. So, this has been a long time coming.

Is there one song you are glad somehow squeaked by and made it onto these recordings?
William Lee: Yes! It was the last song we recorded for these albums. It was the Eagles’ song called “Take It Easy” [for Southern Accents]. We also did “Peaceful Easy Feeling”—those were the last two songs. It’s exciting and exhilarating. Not only recording these songs but hearing it back and realizing we created something special—it’s still exciting.
Chris: We hope those last two Eagles’ songs lead us to the next project.

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