The latest in a series from me and Jennifer Ziegler, part of it here, and part of it there.

Jenny: Do you have any guilty pleasures? Are there any TV shows, songs, musical acts, etc., that you are (or were in the past) ashamed to admit you like? If so, what? Defend them!

Me: This falls closer to “self-conscious” than “ashamed,” but when I was a kid I was a huge fan of the Oak Ridge Boys. You know:

And when I say “huge fan,” I mean huge as in seeing them in concert three times (including once on a bill with the Commodores!), as in joining the Columbia House record club largely so I could stock up on their back catalog, and as in trekking to East Texas State University just to wait in a receiving line so I could shake the hand of one of them being honored by his alma mater.

But when I was in eighth grade, I went on a weekend trip to an Episcopal youth conference in Dallas. The kid hosting me was blasting Suicidal Tendencies —


— and here I was traveling with a cassette case full of the likes of this:


I remember feeling very self-aware about that. Not long after, I stopped listening (much) to the Oak Ridge Boys. They became not so much a guilty pleasure as guiltily remembered nostalgia — and, really, they were guilty only of being wholesome and uncool. The Oaks could sing, and eventually — after I had drifted down the path of becoming wholesome and uncool by having kids of my own — I indulged myself in reacquiring some of their favorite songs that I wouldn’t mind being caught listening to, if it came to that.

What I never could figure out, though, was why the Oak Ridge Boys took such hold of me when I was 10 years old and retained my interest decades later. Then, in the course of a conversation with a friend a few years ago, I put together the facts that:

1) my dad died in 1979, when I was 8

2) I became aware of the Oak Ridge Boys (through their best-known song, above) within couple of years

and 3) there was at least an outside chance that I saw in them not one but four father figures.

And had I known that this was coming not long after —

— it would have given me a fourth reason for finally being a-OK with my appreciation of Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.