Since 1977, Western music ensemble Riders in the Sky have kept alive the harmony-filled songs, folksy jokes and over the top fashion of Hollywood's singing cowboys.
Ranger Doug (aka guitarist Douglas Green), Too Slim (bassist Fred LaBour) and Woody Paul (fiddler Paul Chrisman) formed after finding success at Nashville bar Herr Harry. The group took its name from an album by one of its most obvious influences, Roy Rogers' Sons of the Pioneers. They've been joined since 1988 by Joey the CowPolka King (accordion player Joey Miskulin).
Like Gene Autry and other multimedia predecessors, Riders in the Sky's jovial take on cowboy songs suited everything from albums issued by Rounder, MCA and Epic to the TNN series Tumbleweed Theater (1983-1986), the Patsy Cline biopic Sweet Dreams (1983), a CBS children's show titled Riders in the Sky (1991-1992) and long-running public radio series Riders' Radio Theater (1988-1996).
Albums of note include Three on the Trail (1979), Cowboy Jubilee (1981), The Cowboy Way (live, 1987), Riders Go Commercial (1989), Harmony Ranch (1991) and Public Cowboy #1: The Music of Gene Autry (1996). Songs on these releases include originals and classics by such cowboy songwriters as the man behind the song "Riders in the Sky" (sometimes titled "Ghost Riders in the Sky" or "A Cowboy Legend"), Stan Jones.
The group's kid-friendly image led to two high-profile collaborations with Disney and Pixar. Its song "Woody's Roundup" appeared in the 1999 film Toy Story 2. A subsequent album titled Woody's Roundup scored the band a Grammy award (Best Musical Album for Children, 2000). Two years later, the veteran act won another Grammy award for its contribution to the album Monsters Inc.: Scream Factory Favorites.
Riders in the Sky joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1982 and remain active members. In 1993, they became the first contemporary act inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame.
Fans of the group or the cowboy music it upholds should check out two books: Green's Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy and Dr. Don Cusic's It's the Cowboy Way!: Amazing True Adventures of Riders in the Sky.