Getting a Hall of Fame debut

Ryan Wells Oak Ridge Boys

Ryan Wells, third from left, was one of several local and state policemen to appear onstage to sing Elvira with The Oak Ridge Boys at the Kentucky State Fair in August. Lead singer Duane Allen, baritone William Lee Golden and Oaks Band guitarist Roger Eaton are also visible in the photo. (Photo courtesy The Oak Ridge Boys/Anne Frances Pate.)

Lawrenceburg native appears onstage with Oak Ridge Boys

By John Herndon

NOTE: This story appeared in the Aug. 29 edition of The Anderson News. It was one fun story to write.

Ryan Wells has rarely shown off his singing pipes, but thanks to Twitter, he did so with Hall of Famers last week.

The Lawrenceburg native, who is now a patrolman for the Lexington Police Department, joined several of his colleagues, officers from around the state and Kentucky State Troopers on stage to sing “Elvira” with The Oak Ridge Boys during the group’s annual stop at the Kentucky State Fair on Aug. 19.

“I’ve never been much of a singer other than in the cruiser by myself or in the shower,” Wells said by email. “I guess you could say I have stage fright.”

There was no better way to overcome that than by being on stage with the group that has been at the fair 43 consecutive years. Despite a threat of storms, an estimated 7,000 people came to hear The Oaks sing their blend of country and gospel hits.

“When we were backstage getting ready to come on, I looked out into the crowd and there were people as far as I could see,” Wells said, “but I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity.”

Earlier in the week, the group’s tenor, Joe Bonsall, had said on Twitter that some law enforcement officers would be joining the group for their signature song after some troopers started mentioning the song last winter.

“It all started on Twitter when some Kentucky troopers starting tweeting that they were boning up on Elvira to sing it for us at the fair, so we tweeted back, ‘Hey, sing it WITH us,’” Bonsall said in an email. “Well it spread like wildfire as we started to hear from law enforcement from around the state. So the plan was to bring them all up onstage. The fair people were wondering how it would go,’What if 40 show up?’

“My response was It doesn’t matter. I didn’t care if 100 showed up. Anyhow it was a memorable moment honoring these men on stage and they all seemed to get a real kick out of singing with us.”

As the group prepared to sing Elvira, the customary signal that the show is drawing to a close, Bonsall, who serves as the group’s master of ceremonies, related how things got started and drew a laugh from the crowd. But as the uniformed state troopers and local officers from around the state, some wearing street clothes, came on stage, the crowd roared its approval.

“I actually wasn’t aware of the whole KSP vs. Lexington PD ‘who can sing it better’ feud until we were on the way up there that night,” Wells said. “They’re big law enforcement supporters so they invited us all on stage.”

Wells said the Oaks, who are members of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and have won numerous awards, welcomed the policemen. “They were all very down-to-earth and humble. You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer group of guys,” Wells said.

Wells was already a fan before getting his once-in-a-lifetime chance. “I’m a fan of all classic country. They just don’t make music like that but yes, I was a fan before this happened,” Wells said. “Actually, one of the guys I went (to the fair) with was my class coordinator in the police training academy and he used to bring me back to the officer bay all the time to sing the bass parts of the Oak Ridge Boys’ songs to the other members of the academy training staff.”

Wells lives in Lexington, but has plans to return to his hometown sometime in the future. “Lawrenceburg is home and I will eventually move back,” he says.

And maybe, just maybe, someone will hear Ryan Wells singing, “Giddy up, oom poppa oom poppa mow mow,” again.

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