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It's the Cowboy Way!

It's the Cowboy Way!: The Amazing True Adventures of Riders In The Sky

Don Cusic
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    It's the Cowboy Way!
    Book Description:

    It's the Cowboy Way!tells the full story of the amazing true adventures of group members Ranger Doug, Woody Paul, Too Slim, and Joey "The CowPolka King" for the first time, from their first gigs at "Herr Harry's Phranks 'N' Steins," in Nashville, to their rise to the top of the Grammy heap. Since 1977, Riders In The Sky has faithfully tended a musical tradition kindled by singing cowboy legends, such as Gene Autry and the Sons Of The Pioneers. Throughout its long career, the group has branded the genre with its own mark, crafting a well-balanced mix of both classic and original western songs -- smooth harmony, hot licks, and comedy. Over the past quarter of a century, and more than 4,500 shows, 290 national TV appearances, 203 public radio shows, nearly 700 Grand Ole Opry appearances, 2.3 million miles on the road, two Grammy Awards, three television series, and 31 albums down the trail, a group that began with a commitment to carry on an American musical tradition has itself become a national treasure.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4958-5
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    Riders In The Sky are not superstars in country music—they’ve never had a gold or platinum album, never had a hit record on the radio, and never headlined a major arena tour. Yet this group is more influential than most of those with the above-mentioned achievements. Indeed, Riders In The Sky may be one of the most influential groups in the history of country music in the twentieth century.

    Before the Riders were formed at the end of 1977, western music was basically dead. The Sons of the Pioneers, formed in 1932 and the guiding light and inspiration for...

  4. The Amazing True Adventures of Riders In The Sky

    • Chapter 1
      (pp. 4-8)

      There really was nothing like them when they started. The men who later became known as Riders In The Sky—but were introduced on their first night playing together simply as Doug, Fred, and Bill—had an act that was completely different from anything else that was performing nationally at the time.

      Many musicians claim their music is “different than anything you’ve ever heard before.” That’s rarely true, and even if it is, it generally isn’t marketable. People need a point of reference, and the totally new and unknown takes some getting used to. The key to the success of...

    • Chapter 2
      (pp. 8-12)

      In the mid-1970s, “and western” was long gone from “country” music. Those who used the term sent a signal, a code-word that the user wasn’t in the know. The term was considered outdated and out of the loop; there was no “western” in country music. The proper term wascountry,and the top artist, Kenny Rogers, presented an urbane, hip image. No cowboy boots on that singer!

      Actually, there was a cowboy resurgence of sorts through the “outlaw” movement of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. It was really a back-to-Texas movement in country music, but at least it made wearing...

    • Ranger Doug’s Story
      (pp. 13-15)

      My father is James Donald Green, who was a physician—general practitioner and then an internist—who was born in Detroit in 1921. My mother was the former Hilda Maria Peterson. She was a nurse when she met my father; after they married she stayed home and took care of the house and kids. Her family name was Moilanen, which is Finnish, but was Americanized to Peterson. She was born in Ishpeming, near Marquette in the upper peninsula of Michigan, in 1917. They were married in June 1945 in Detroit, and I was born about nine months later—on March...

    • Chapter 3
      (pp. 16-18)

      Douglas Green began playing bluegrass in high school. “A high school friend named Jim McQuaid played the banjo, and in our small school there were only a couple of guys who played guitar, so he insisted I learn to play bluegrass so he would have someone to back him up on guitar,” remembers Green. By the time he entered Albion College, “I was a bluegrass maniac.”

      After two years at Albion, he transferred to the University of Michigan, where he played in a bluegrass group called The Big Sandy Boys. The leader of this group, Nolan Faulkner, introduced Green to...

    • Chapter 4
      (pp. 18-20)

      Douglas Green had known Bill Ivey since both were at the University of Michigan. Ivey taught guitar at the same little studio where Green had a job selling guitars. It was Green who told Ivey about the job opening of executive director of the Country Music Foundation, whose duties included running the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ivey, in graduate school at Indiana University’s folklore program at the time, applied for the job and was hired.

      In Nashville, tired and fed up with selling guitars at Gruhn’s, Green quit that job but continued to do some freelance writing and played...

    • Chapter 5
      (pp. 20-23)

      The river of western music has two main tributaries: the old folk or traditional songs of working cowboys and the songs written for the singing-cowboy movies. Many of the folk songs can be traced back to the latter half of the nineteenth century; the singing-cowboy movies began in the 1930s and by the early 1950s had run their course.

      Examples of the folk songs are “Red River Valley,” “Home on the Range,” “I Ride an Old Paint,” “The Streets of Laredo” (aka “The Dying Cowboy”), “When the Work’s All Done This Fall,” and “Old Chisholm Trail.” Melodically, these songs can...

    • Too Slim’s Story
      (pp. 24-28)

      My father’s name was George LaBour Jr., and he was vice president in charge of sales for the Michigan Wheel Propeller Company, which made propellers in Grand Rapids. My mother’s maiden name was Hazel Fredericka Gotch; my parents were married in Grand Rapids in 1932 or ’33. I was born June 3, 1948, the fourth of four children, after a brother, Jeffy, and sisters Marcie and Chris.

      We did not move during my years with the family—we were pretty stable in Grand Rapids. We lived in our house on the outskirts of town, where we had a couple of...

    • Chapter 6
      (pp. 29-34)

      Douglas Green and Fred LaBour first met in the early 1970s when LaBour moved next door to Green on Wildwood Avenue in Nashville. “We shared a mutual love for softball and music,” said Green. “It turned out that he’d been at the University of Michigan the same time I was there and even lived on the same street and ate at the same pizza parlor, but we never met there.”

      “I’d heard of Doug before I moved to Nashville but had never met him,” remembers LaBour. “He was in the yard throwing the softball around, and I took my glove...

    • Chapter 7
      (pp. 34-37)

      The group continued playing through the summer of 1978, playing dates in and around Nashville. On March 30 and 31 they played the Old Time Pickin’ Parlor; they played again on August 15. At one of these dates a fourth member of the group, Woody Paul, invited himself to join. At this point the group still consisted of Douglas Green, Fred LaBour, and Bill Collins.

      Green had first met Woody Paul while both were at Vanderbilt—Woody as an undergraduate and Douglas as a graduate student. “I remember seeing him play,” said Green. “And he was playing a Stella guitar....

    • Woody’s Story
      (pp. 38-43)

      I was born Paul Woodrow Chrisman in a hospital in Nashville on August 23, 1949. We moved around a little after I was born, but pretty much settled in our house in Triune between Arrington and Murfreesboro on Murfreesboro Road. My father had been a school teacher, but he wanted to farm. So he went with farming, and we raised tobacco, hay, cows, corn—everything but cotton.

      The first time I ever played in public was at the Murfreesboro Cattle Bam when I was four years old. I sang “Home on the Range” and got a hamburger, Milky Way, and...

    • Chapter 8
      (pp. 44-44)

      “So that was the quartet,” said Fred. “We started practicing together, and the first shows we did with Woody were up at the Kentucky State Fair, which sort of marked the beginning of our road career. It was in August of that year [1978]. Went up and played in the hall of giant vegetables where they had giant pumpkins and giant tobacco plants and cornstalks fifteen feet high and then there was Riders In The Sky down at the end, singing ‘Ridin’ Down the Canyon’ and ‘Don’t Fence Me In.’ It was great, and it’s interesting to remember that at...

    • Chapter 9
      (pp. 44-49)

      The author of a biography should remain invisible, letting the focus remain on the central figure—or, in this case, figures—of the book. But I had a part in the early history of the Riders and so, in the light of truthful disclosure as well as hopefully adding some insight into those early years, I will tell my part.

      I don’t remember meeting Douglas Green, but I knew him back in 1975 or so when I was the country music editor atRecord World,a trade magazine. Douglas was doing some publicity for the Country Music Hall of Fame...

    • Chapter 10
      (pp. 49-52)

      “The real formation of the group, in my mind, was every Tuesday night at a club called Wind in the Willows in Nashville,” said Fred. “Tuesday night is traditionally a death night for clubs, but we took the night and really turned it into something. It became a cult kind of deal. It cost fifty cents to get in, and we soon had a regular crowd. We would play four sets—two of which we had really prepared and the rest we would just wing it. People would come down and sit in. We had a saxophone player named Jay...

    • Chapter 11
      (pp. 52-57)

      “We played through that winter, sort of helter-skelter,” remembers Fred. “We opened for Billy Joe Shaver, opened for other people, and we began to get a little bit of a reputation as something different and something fun in town. I got a day job at the library in Nashville in the children’s room doing puppets and doing Singing Cowboy Slim. That’s when I got the name Too Slim.

      “I had married Peggy Young,” continued LaBour. “And we had a little boy named Frank and a little girl named Lily and were trying to raise a family, so I was doing...

    • Chapter 12
      (pp. 57-63)

      The Riders entered Audio-Media Studios on Nineteenth Avenue South in Nashville on November 26, 1979, to begin recording their first album for Rounder. The first song they recorded was “Skyball Paint,” the second was “Three on the Trail,” and the third was the song that gave them their name, “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky.”

      “Skyball Paint” is a Bob Nolan song, a fun, up-tempo number where each member of the Riders takes a verse. Ranger Doug had found the song on one of the many Sons of the Pioneers albums he owned or possibly a transcription he’d heard at the...

    • Chapter 13
      (pp. 63-72)

      The Riders’ first album,Three on the Trail,was released in early 1980. They had already gotten a big boost—psychologically, at least-before the album even came out.

      Producer Snuff Garrett had recorded an album on Bob Nolan, released on Elektra Records, and Douglas Green convincedCountry Music Magazineto let him do a story on Nolan. Fred Goodwin set up the interview, and “We ended up talking a long time, not about his record but about my admiration for him,[Nolan]” said Green. “I asked him to write the liner notes for our album and sent him a tape. And...

    • Chapter 14
      (pp. 72-77)

      In early January, the Riders played in Georgia during the time when theAustin City Limitsshow was broadcast. On their way back to Nashville, the group stopped in Ringgold, Georgia, to gas up their van. Ranger Doug was dressed in cutoffs and a baseball cap, but the station attendant came out and, in a thick southern accent, asked, “Ain’t you Ranger Doug?” He had seen the television show. It was their first brush with national fame, and they were ecstatic. It marked a milestone in their career and was a proof-positive sign that they were making headway.

      On January...

    • Chapter 15
      (pp. 77-84)

      On January 5 and 6, 1982, the Riders were in Pittsburgh at Audio Innovators Studio to record an album’s worth of songs. That album project came about because Jim Sutton, who was a fan of the Riders, wanted to have an album to sell on television. “He was going to do these infomercials, like Boxcar Willie and Slim Whitman,” said Doug. “And we recorded this album of half standards and half originals that sounded like standards.”

      The first day they recorded two classics, “Cool Water” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” and two songs written by Woody, “Bound to Hit the Trail” and...

    • Chapter 16
      (pp. 85-89)

      During Fan Fair in Nashville that June, the Riders were inducted into the Country Music Foundation’s Walkway of Stars as their name was placed in front of the building where Ranger Doug used to work. Slim remembers that “Woody wept. We were really surprised and just stared at him. But it was a very emotional experience for him. When he spoke he was very eloquent and told how much he was moved by this honor.”

      On June 19, 1982, Riders In The Sky achieved a lifelong dream when they were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. By this time, the...

    • Chapter 17
      (pp. 89-94)

      In 1983 Riders In The Sky would benefit from being in the right place at the right time, connected to the right people and the right organizations. It seems appropriate that the year began with the Riders performing on the Grand Ole Opry on New Year’s Day.

      This would mark the beginning of a year when the Opry became extremely relevant to the music industry because it was owned by the same company that owned The Nashville Network (TNN), which would give country music daily national coverage on cable TV.

      WSM, the radio station begun in 1925 that broadcasted the...

    • Photographs
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter 18
      (pp. 94-98)

      On March 5 and 6, 1983, the day before their debut on The Nashville Network, the Riders were in Alexandria, Virginia, to record a live album for Rounder at The Birchmere.

      They began their set with “Cowboy Jubilee,” their theme song at the time and the title of their second album. Next came “The Yodel Blues,” written by Johnny Mercer and Robert Emmet Dolan, which Ranger Doug had learned from an Elton Britt album.

      This was followed by “When the Bloom Is on the Sage,” which Ranger Doug had first heard when Red River Dave sang it. That song came...

    • Chapter 19
      (pp. 98-104)

      On May 14, 1984, the Riders boarded a flight for London and began a British tour with an appearance onBreakfast Timeon BBCTV on May 15. The next day they began their tour of England, beginning in Southsea, then going to Burnemouth, Hertford, Boston, Chatham, and Brean Sands. On May 24 they continued their tour in Scotland, performing at Saltcoats, Aberdeen, Elgin, Dundee, and Edinburgh before playing in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on May 30, then finishing their tour in Bridlington, England, on May 31.

      “It was booked and promoted by this crazy Scottish promoter, Drew Taylor,” said Ranger Doug....

    • Chapter 20
      (pp. 104-108)

      The Riders were on the periphery of country music—part of the Grand Ole Opry with a presence on The Nashville Network—but they were not country stars. In country music, the way to achieve fame and fortune is to have hit records on the radio. By 1985, two of the Riders were actively seeking a way to have a hit on country radio.

      Woody Paul was the one most determined to have that. “He wanted a country album—he’s always leaned that way,” remembered Slim, who added, “I fell for it too, but Ranger Doug was always skeptical.”


    • Chapter 21
      (pp. 109-113)

      The Riders began 1986 with an appearance on the Opry on January 3. On January 21 they were onNashville Now,then headed out to the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. “The first year of the Cowboy Poetry Gathering—1984—we were in Alaska,” said Slim. “We’d known Hal Cannon, one of the founders of the gathering, for a while—and he invited us. It was the beginning of the Cowboy Renaissance. There was some initial skepticism about us—some thought our tongue was too far into our cheeks. Some of the old poets were put off by us initially....

    • Chapter 22
      (pp. 113-117)

      The contract with the major label, MCA, led to discussions of what their first album should be. Since they were such a strong act live and since they toured a great deal, the decision was made to record a “live” album in the studio. By recording in the studio, they were assured of a good sound; also, they were able to do mostly songs they’d never recorded before, along with a few old favorites.

      The Riders began their set with a Cindy Walker song that Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys had done, “Miss Molly,” then played Green’s “Lonely Yukon...

    • Chapter 23
      (pp. 118-121)

      In the summer of 1987, Battle Ground Academy High School in Franklin, Tennessee, held its twentieth-year reunion for the 1967 graduating class. Woody Paul was a member of this class, and so was Billy Maxwell—but they hadn’t seen each other since around the time they’d graduated. Woody and Billy had gone through elementary and high school together (they’d been to different junior highs) and lived close to each other. At the reunion the two sat down and began talking—and didn’t stop until everyone else had left. During the conversation, the two agreed to keep in touch. This led...

    • Chapter 24
      (pp. 121-124)

      In January, Billy Maxwell went on the road with the Riders, driving the bus and selling merchandise. “We were going to Elko; it was a neat deal,” he said. “We flew into Salt Lake City and had to rent a bass for Slim and then get it over to Elko, which was about 250 to 300 miles away. Woody had called around for two days before we left home to find the cheapest van we could rent, and we ended up with a mini mini mini van—really small. It was Ranger Doug, Slim, Woody, me, and this big bass...

    • Joey’s Story
      (pp. 125-133)

      I was born on January 6, 1949, in Chicago, Illinois. I am the only child of Joseph John Miskulin, who worked in the printing business, and the former Mary Ann Baskovic. They were married in Chicago in 1948.

      My parents were divorced when I was a youngster—under five—so I lived with my mother and her parents. There was always a lot of music in our home. The first records I can remember were seventy-eights of Frankie Yankovic and His Yanks on Columbia Records and also some country groups, like Lulu Belle and Scotty. There were also the pop...

    • Chapter 25
      (pp. 134-139)

      The idea for a radio show had been brewing for quite a while. According to Ranger Doug, “When we’d gotten done those three years on The Nashville Network doingTumbleweed Theater,we thought the whole idea would translate well with radio because, from the start, I had gotten so much of the sensibility of Riders In The Sky from those old radio shows—the Sons of the Pioneers Teleways transcriptions, the Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage transcriptions, and Gene Autry’sMelody Ranchshows. I’d listened to a lot of that stuff while I was working at...

    • Chapter 26
      (pp. 140-145)

      On January 10, 1989, the Riders taped two shows forRiders Radio Theaterand the next day appeared onNashville Now.The day after that they were in Jack’s Tracks studio with Kathy Mattea recording “Here’s Hopin’.” The next two days—Friday and Saturday—they played on the Opry.

      On Monday morning they were at TNN working on a “Country Comedy Special.” They spent three days that week working on that show, then, early on Thursday morning, were on Ralph Emery’s local TV show. Friday night they performed at their Hospital Hospitality House benefit, and on Saturday night they were...

    • Chapter 27
      (pp. 145-149)

      We left Nashville on October 10, 1989, driving on 1-65 North, headed to Montana. Everybody was into working out then, so we stopped in Minneapolis, where everybody worked out at the YMCA. I stayed in the bus, and while I was in the parking lot somebody backed into the bus, but it didn’t do any damage. We went through Fargo, North Dakota, to Plentywood, Montana, where Woody and I played golf. We only played three holes because the wind was blowing so hard you couldn’t even stand up to make your shot. Plentywood is about sixteen miles from the Canadian...

    • Chapter 28
      (pp. 149-157)

      On January 22, 1990, the Riders taped their firstRiders Radio Theatershows in Cincinnati. By this time, the Riders had a strong team working with them. Steve Arwood—Texas Bix Bender—wrote the first draft of the scripts on his typewriter at home, then met them in Cincinnati, where they edited the show and pulled it together. During the show, he did the announcing. Joey, “the Cowpolka King,” performed onstage with the Riders, while Roberta Samet—“the Fair Roberta”—did “whatever needed to be done.” She worked on their make-up, costumes, and generally pitched in whenever needed. David Skepner...

    • Chapter 29
      (pp. 157-162)

      Michael Martin Murphey did a guest appearance onRiders Radio Theaterand shortly after that—in mid-1990—hired Joey Miskulin to go on the road with his band. Joey had been on the road with the Riders since the middle of 1989, but “I always got a weird feeling with David Skepner,” said Joey. “I never felt that David Skepner wanted me involved with the Riders, although I could not have been treated better by Doug, Slim, Woody, or anyone else involved with them. I just felt that Skepner looked at me like I was someone interfering or a fifth...

    • Chapter 30
      (pp. 162-168)

      The year 1991 began with a bang. On January 6 they were in Washington, where they appeared on NPR’sWeekend Edition,interviewed by LeAnn Hansen. “That was a very scripted show,” said Ranger Doug. “She had her questions and stuck to them. It wasn’t a free-ranging interview, which we're known to do. She wasn’t into the silly part of it at all. Which is okay—that’s public radio.

      “You know me, Mr. Historian,” continued Green. “I’ve always been concerned about keeping the tradition alive. But I’ve always resisted pigeon-holing us as a revivalist act, because we aren’t. But she stressed...

    • Chapter 31
      (pp. 168-175)

      After the idea of doing a “Riders Go to Hollywood” sitcom, based on the oldBeverly Hillbilliesshow, didn’t get much response from TV execs, Alan Sacks developed the idea of a children’s show starring the Riders. On May 27, 1990, the Riders did a showcase for TV executives at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, and Judy Price with CBS was immediately interested. “There was also a guy in Business Affairs at CBS that was a big fan of theirs,” said Sacks.

      CBS insisted that a writer for the show be hired, “and that was a big mistake,” said Sacks. “We...

    • Chapter 32
      (pp. 175-180)

      March 21, 1992: They were getting the Western Heritage Award for “The Line Rider,” so we went to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. We were on the plane going in with Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross, and we got there and had breakfast. Skepner was supposed to go, but at the last minute he canceled. It was a black-tie affair. So at the last minute Woody called and said, “You need to go,” so I ended up having to buy a tuxedo for the deal. We checked into the Worthington Hotel, and they all had rooms provided...

    • Chapter 33
      (pp. 180-194)

      On January 27 the Riders were at Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Studios in Austin, Texas, where they recorded the old Cindy Walker song, “Dusty Skies,” with Asleep at the Wheel for a tribute to Bob Wills album.

      “That album was nominated for a CMA Award, so we got to go to the CMA Awards,” said Slim. “We didn’t win—the Eagles Tribute did. But it felt like prom night. Bert had never gone to a prom, so I got her a corsage, and we posed for a picture outside Ranger Doug’s house by the bush.”

      On January 30 they were back...

    • Photographs
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter 34
      (pp. 194-201)

      On January 16–20 the Riders were in Oklahoma City at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

      January 16, 1995: We were going to the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City to do a one-hour TV special for TNN. And of course it took us four days—Monday through Thursday—to film the one-hour show. We did the Opry just before we left, loaded up the stuff, and went to Houston, where we did a show at Rockefeller’s. After that show we drove north and arrived in Oklahoma City at ten-thirty in the morning, took a nap, took a...

    • Chapter 35
      (pp. 201-207)

      The Riders appeared on a TNN special, “An Evening of Country Greats,” in February 1996, which led to them recording a tribute album to Gene Autry,Public Cowboy #1: The Music of Gene Autry.“We did a medley of five songs of Autry’s with him in the audience,” said Slim. “And that’s what led to this album.”

      On June 17–20, the Riders were in the studio recording songs for that album. On June 17 they recorded “Mexicali Rose,” “Lonely River,” and “Blue Canadian Rockies”; on June 18 they recorded “Be Honest with Me,” “That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine,” “South...

    • Chapter 36
      (pp. 207-211)

      February 7, 1997: Show number 3,500 was in Tucson at the Temple of Music and Art. We had come from Los Angeles to Tucson. In L.A. Woody, Joey, and I went to Universal Studios Theme Park and played all day and had a good time. Then they did aCrook and Chase show.OnCrookand Chasethey also had a fashion show with Frederick’s of Hollywood, and everybody was joking about sharing a dressing room with the models. Turned out the models took all the dressing rooms, and we had to get ready in the hall. From L.A. we...

    • Chapter 37
      (pp. 211-218)

      In 1995 and 1996, Nashville’s tourism numbers went up, although attendance at Opryland had begun to decline. By 1994 the theme park was ranked twenty-sixth nationally. The development of downtown Nashville, particularly Second Avenue, was partially responsible. But Opryland had failed to install new rides as fast as other theme parks and had failed to develop a water park—although there was a very successful Wave Pool a few miles down the road from Opryland.

      The whiz kids on Wall Street got to the smart guys at Gaylord and demanded that stock prices soar higher and higher each quarter and...

    • Chapter 38
      (pp. 218-220)

      The Riders would feature Joey and Woody on their next recordings. The songs delve into their jazz roots and showcase the musical virtuosity of the Riders. On their first day of recording they did “Texas Sand,” “Dizzy Fingers,” “Clarinet Polka,” a medley that comprised “Annie Laurie,” “Scotland the Brave,” and “Haste to the Wedding,” and “Jesusita En Chihuahua.” The next day they recorded “We’re Burning Moonlight,” “Never Go to Church on Sunday,” “Katherine’s Waltz,” “You Stole My Wife, You Horse Thief,” and “I’m an Old Cowhand.”

      Written by Joey, “We’re Burning Moonlight” features him sing ing lead and shows him...

    • Chapter 39
      (pp. 221-226)

      The highlight of the Riders’ professional performing career came on Friday, August 11, and Saturday, August 12, 2000, when they performed at the Hollywood Bowl. On the Friday evening there were thirteen thousand in the audience; on Saturday evening there were seventeen thousand. The Riders performed with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, “the finest musicians we’ve ever played with,” said Ranger Doug.

      “I’m not really sure how that came about, but it was from the Toy Story thing,” continued Green. “Disney wrote a beautiful chart of a medley we’d put together. It was a beautiful score. It just worked. It was...

    • Chapter 40
      (pp. 226-231)

      In November 2002 the Riders celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary, so they wanted to record a double CD of their best, most enduring songs as well as some new ones for this milestone. On October 29, 2001, they began recording for this project, doing “Here Comes the Santa Fe,” “Way Out There,” “Woody’s Roundup,” and “How Does He Yodel.” The next day they did “Texas Plains,” “Cool Water,” “That’s How the Yodel Was Born,” “Blue Bonnet Lady,” and “Ride, Cowboy, Ride.”

      On Halloween, the Riders recorded “Lonely Yukon Stars,” “The Line Rider,” “Ringo,” “Reincarnation,” “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” and “The Arms of My...

    • Chapter 41
      (pp. 231-236)

      In the fall of 2002,Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboyby Douglas B. Green was published by the Vanderbilt University Press and the Country Music Foundation. This scholarly work will be the standard in its field for years to come and shows a side of Ranger Doug the public hadn’t seen in many, many years: the historian and scholar.

      The seeds for the book were planted before Riders In The Sky was formed. “When I was working for the Country Music Foundation I did interviews with these old-time cowboys and fell in love with the...

    • Chapter 42
      (pp. 236-239)

      “Ever since practically day one with the Riders,” said Woody, “I’ve felt that we were successful. To me, those things that happened—like the TV shows andRiders Radio Theaterand the Grammy—are just icing on the cake. I always knew that we could entertain and we were good musically and had fun on stage. I’ve always been very positive and felt successful from the first day with the group.”

      Talking about their performances, Woody states, “A whole lot of our material is developed on stage—the seed will be thrown and then it germinates until you get really...

    • Chapter 43
      (pp. 240-243)

      “There were never any low spots with me and Riders In The Sky concerning the three guys,” said Joey. “They have always been wonderful to me in every way. What most impresses me about each of the Riders is that each one is not only a fine musician but also a fine stylist. Too Slim has developed a style of bass playing that’s all his own. Ranger Doug has developed a style of playing rhythm guitar that is all his own. Woody Paul has a bluegrassy-be-bop style of playing fiddle, his banjo-esque fiddle solos are wonderful. The amazing thing is...

    • Chapter 44
      (pp. 244-246)

      “When I try to sum up Riders In The Sky, I think that one thing we’ve done that separates us from other groups is that there were precious few people doing what we did when we started,” said Slim. “We’ve made it fun for people. I think that with our show, with the good time we have playing the music, that it’s a fun experience for people to come and hear us. It’s entertainment, and it happens to be western music. We can rope ’em in the door and then they realize there’s this whole body of great western music...

    • Chapter 45
      (pp. 246-249)

      Discussing the Riders, Ranger Doug states, “Slim is the linchpin of the group. The audience might be laughing at us, not with us, if it wasn’t for his particular comic genius. Musically the audience probably has little appreciation for the depths of his talent and contribution, because he is the driving heart of the band. He is steady as a rock, yet fluid enough to go with the unexpected as a player, and is always eager to learn and stretch on his instrument As a singer, like all of us, he has worked very hard to become good and develop...

    • Chapter 46
      (pp. 249-254)

      In November of 2002, the Riders went to the annual Western Music Association gathering in Las Vegas, where they were feted with a special “roast” honoring their twenty-fifth year as Riders In The Sky. The roast began with a video that ended with the heads of the Riders on Mount Rushmore. The roasters included John Sandidge, Alan Sacks, Johnny Western, Fred Goodwin, Hal Cannon, John Lasseter, former Dixie Chick Laura Lynch, and Ray Benson, with a special, surprise roast by Tommy Smothers. Video clips of Baxter Black, the Osborne Brothers, Connie Smith, Clint Black, Little Jimmy Dickens, The Whites, Billy...

  5. Discography
    (pp. 255-280)
  6. Sessionography
    (pp. 281-302)
  7. Notes and Bibliography
    (pp. 303-306)