(Ghost) Riders in the Sky from Start to Finish

Origins of "Riders in the Sky"

Photo detail

In this episode we take a look at the history of one of the most widely post WWII, "Covered" popular songs in the ASCAP publishing database.

From its humble beginnings as a European folk song to its re-appearance during the American Civil War asa melody for a drinking song, to its eventual use as she basis for a song about a cautionary tale warning a cowboy that if he doesn't change his ways, who will one day join the damned cowboys doomed to try to “catch the Devil”s herd across these endless skies.

Music Videos

While not an official video production from the estate of Marty Robbins, I really do think that this visual interpretation captures some the essence regarding "Riders in the Sky"

From a September 1990 episode of the CBS Television show "Hee Haw".  Glen Campbell & Roy Clark play "Ghost Riders in the Sky", with some help from Jeff Dayton. Glen & Roy's version of this song is on the soundtrack album for the 1985 movie "Uphill All the Way", available at finer retailers everywhere!

This is 1961... (Restored footage). Levang was hired as a temporary guitar and banjo player on The Lawrence Welk Show when Buddy Merrill left to serve in the United States Army. Welk was so pleased with his ability that he hired Levang on a permanent basis when Buddy completed his tour of duty in 1961. Levang stayed with the Welk Band until its final show in 1982.

That same year, at the Country Music Association Awards he was nominated for best artist on a specialty instrument, the mandolin.

He was also an accomplished studio musician, playing on several records for artists such as Glen Campbell, Frank Zappa, Bobby Darin, Bobbi Gentry, David Clayton Thomas, Neal Hefti ("Batman Theme"), Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Neil Diamond and Noel Boggs. Levang died in Canyon Country, California at the age of 83.

The ill fated reboot of the Blues Brothers movie franchise in the late 1990s tried to recapture the romance and legitimacy of the original film by relying on trade and true musical icons such as "Riders in the Sky".

Filmed in Toronto, Ontario Canada, most of which was shot in the Cherry Street area of Toronto in what is now the "Distillery District". The timing was right and so were the surroundings. The area had been a staging ground and ancillary storage and processing to the nearby Docklands south of Lakeshore Drive.

I watched the movie filming evolve on a daily basis during 1996/1997 as I drove Cherry St. Daily on my way to work. Sets going up and then controlled destruction of the concert hall included in this clip.

One of the first appearances of "Riders in the Sky" came during a 1949 episode of the movie by the same name. Singing Cowboy Gene Autry sings the Western Classic song "Ghost Riders in the Sky" from his movie "Riders in the Sky" from Columbia Pictures 1949.

By the mid 1980s, Duane Eddy had entered a new career awakening after his work with the Art of Noise and their reworking of  the "Peter Gunn Theme". This time out we catch Duane flying his stylings all over our featured track. This video is from an American TV appearance in 1996.

In the USA, and more specifically, Texas is full of lore, legends, and ghost stories. The tale of the Ghost Riders is by far the saddest, most evil, not to mention, the most famous one in the country. This legend is sadly true, a senseless ghoulish tragedy which took place in Crosby County, Texas. You may know it as Stampede Mesa. The legend inspired the classic song “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”


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