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'Ghost Riders in the Sky': The Story Behind the Hair-Raising Cowboy Song

"Ghost Riders in the Sky" isn't just a famous country ballad, it's a cowboy legend that's been around for centuries. Songwriter Stan Jones, who penned the song in 1948, said he first heard the folklore from an old cowboy when he was just 12 years old.

Jones wrote the ghostly ballad to the tune of  "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." The song has caught the attention of many artists over the years. There are so many versions of the song recorded by the likes of The Outlaws, Vaughn Monroe, Peggy Lee, Lawrence Welk, and His Orchestra, Bing Crosby, Frankie Lane, Johnny Cash, The Highwaymen, Burl Ives, and Marty Robbins— all had success on the Billboard charts with the song.

In fact, Monroe's version of the song was named the No. 1 song of 1949 by Billboard. The most peculiar recording of the song is by Finish metal rock band Children of Bodom.

When adding songs to your Halloween playlist, you cannot forget this tale of the dead cowboys who are forced to wrangle the Devil's cattle for all of eternity. What's more Halloween than that?

"Ghost Riders in the Sky" Lyrics:

An old cowboy went riding out
One dark and windy day
Upon a ridge, he rested
As he went along his way

When all at once a mighty herd
Of red-eyed cows he saw
Plowin' through the ragged skies
And up the cloudy draw

Their brands were still on fire
And their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny
And their hot breath he could feel

A bolt of fear went through him
As they thundered through the sky
For he saw the riders coming hard
And he heard their mournful cry

Ghost Riders in the sky

Their faces gaunt
Their eyes were blurred
Their shirts all soaked with sweat
He's riding hard to catch that herd
But he ain't caught 'em yet'

Cause they've got to ride forever
On that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire
As they ride on, hear their cry

As the riders loped on by him
He heard one call his name
'If you wanna save your soul
From hell a-riding on our range

Then, cowboy, change your ways today
Or with us, you will ride
Trying to catch the devil's herd
Across these endless skies

Ghost Riders in the sky

Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky