Few icons are more closely associated with American culture than the cowboy. When the legends say cowboys traveled with only a hat, gun and trusty horse, they're missing one important item: Music. Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were among the most famous of our singing cowboys, and they made western songs an important part of American pop music history.
Now, a second generation is carrying cowboy music to new audiences. One such group is Riders In The Sky, who recently released their 25th anniversary CD, Silver Jubilee.
On guitar and lead yodels, there's "Ranger Doug, "Idol of American Youth." On bass, a guy they simply call "Too Slim." And then, there's "Woody Paul, King of the Cowboy Fiddlers." The trio, along with sidekick "Joey, the Cow Polka King," make up Riders In The Sky. Since 1977, the group has faithfully continued a musical tradition kindled by America's singing cowboys. And, they've done so before a varied audience of fans around the world, playing more than 4,500 shows and traveling 3.7 million kilometers on the road.
Riders In the Sky has released 31 albums of both historical and original material. The newest is a two-CD set, called Silver Jubilee, in honor of their 25th anniversary. The album consists of both new songs, and new recordings of songs found on the Riders now-out-of-print early albums. Also included is a live mini-concert. Which is perfect for new fans, as experiencing the Riders "live" helps to fully appreciate their act.
While these members of the Western Music Hall of Fame wear 10-gallon hats, chaps, and boots, and sing the songs made famous by traditional cowboy singers, there are some odd notes in the Riders harmony. Their stage props include electric campfires and plastic armadillos. And, as you'll hear, a Riders In The Sky live show mixes comedy and music.
Also included in Silver Jubilee is a 24-page booklet of archival photos and extensive liner notes.
While Riders In the Sky sing and dress like cowboys, they, like most of the singing cowboy movie stars, are not cowboys. Bass player "Too Slim" has a graduate degree in wildlife management. Fiddler Woody Paul is actually "Dr. Woody Paul," with a doctorate in plasma physics. And, "Ranger Doug," who has written an award winning history of the singing cowboy, has a Masters degree in English literature. These advanced degrees may, or may not, have helped when the group wrote this informative song called How The Yodel Was Born.