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Music / Riders in the Sky

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From left to right: Joey The Cow-Polka King, Woody Paul, Too Slim, & Ranger Doug.
Riders in the Sky is a Grammy award winning country/western band that first began performing on November 11th, 1977. The band consist of Ranger Doug (Douglas B. Green) on rhythm guitar, Woody Paul (Paul W. Chrisman) on fiddle, Too Slim (Fred LaBour) on bass, and Joey The Cow-Polka King (Joey Miskulin) on accordion. Over the course of their long and semi-illustrious career, they've released 35 albums over the course of 40 years, hosted and starred in numerous television shows and specials, including the TNN series Tumbleweed Theater for three seasons, their own CBS children's show in 1991, and created the National Public Radio series Riders Radio Theater which ran for 15+ years, but they are perhaps best known for singing "Woody's Round-Up" in Toy Story 2.

Associated Tropes:

  • Abridged for Children: The raunchy show they performed live at bars was seriously toned down when they realized that parents were bringing their children to the shows.
  • Age-Progression Song: "Cowboy Song" follows the life of a cowboy from before his birth, as a young man, and eventually to him as an old man watching cities being built "where the long-horn cow once grazed".
  • Audience Participation Song: In live concerts, the Riders invite children to come onstage and sing "I'm Going to Leave Old Texas Now".
  • Band Toon (Live-Action): Riders in the Sky are the stars of the 1991 children's show Riders in the Sky.
  • Ballad of X: "The Ballad of Palindrome", a parody of "The Ballad of Paladin". They also did a cover of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett".
  • Bizarre Instrument: Too Slim plays his face/cheeks. He often refers to it as "the world's second oldest instrument". On their major label debut The Cowboy Way, when the audience cheered this enthusastically, Slim quipped "My kinda crowd! Starved for entertainment!"
  • Concept Album: Their 1989 album Riders Go Commercial is based around the idea that one day there will be commercials on "records, tapes, and CDs", with half of the album consisting of parody commercials for fictional products and the other half with actual music.
  • Cover Album: Public Cowboy #1: The Music of Gene Autry is the only Riders album that is 100% covers.
  • Cover Version: Being a cowboy band means you have to cover the classic cowboy songs, such as "Back in the Saddle Again", "Cool Water", "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"", and "Home on the Range". Most of their albums are 50% covers and 50% original songs.
  • Dead All Along: The cattle rancher-turned outlaw (AKA the narrator) in "Desperado Trail".
  • Darker and Edgier: Early in their career, the Riders wore black hats, dark clothing, carried guns, and had a "grim" look overall. This was the late 1970s, where the "Outlaw" cowboys were big sellers. By the mid-1980s, the Riders became much more colorful in their clothing and ditched the guns all together.
  • Fake Radio Show Album: 1988's Riders Radio Theater album is done in the style of such classic radio shows as Gene Autry's Melody Ranch and The Lone Ranger.
  • Fun with Palindromes: "The Ballad of Palindrome" is about a fictional television show featuring the adventures of a man named Palindrome who has the ability to speak only in palindromes.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Best of The West (1987), Best of The West Rides Again (1990), Saturday Morning with Riders in the Sky (1992), Cowboy Songs (1996), Yodel the Cowboy Way (1998), and America‚Äôs Favorite Cowboy Songs (2012).
  • Groin Attack: The unnamed subject of "That's How the Yodel Was Born".
    The bronco came up, and the cowboy came down
    They met at the old saddlehorn
    It made a deep impression, you could say it changed his life
    And that's how the yodel was born.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Ranger Doug is a classic cowboy hero type. Douglas Green has a Master's Degree in Literature and is a renowned musical historian.
    • Too Slim is the jokester of the trio, always quick to toss off a quip or sarcastic comment. Fred LaBour not only has a Master's Degree in Wildlife Management, he co-authored a satirical article for his university newspaper which is considered the biggst contributor to the 1970s rumor that The Beatles Paul McCartney had died and secretly been replaced by a lookalike.
    • Woody Paul's onstage persona is pretty much a generic goofball. But Paul Chrisman actually has a Ph.D in theoretical plasma physics from MIT, for his thesis "Inertial, Viscous, and Finite-Beta Effects in a Resistive, Time Dependent Tokamak Discharge".
    • Joey the Cow-Polka King plays perhaps the least accessible instrument. But he's been a professional recording artist for over 60 years, and is a successful record producer.
  • Iconic Song Request: "Let's do our most requested song: "That's How The Yodel Was Born"." - Ranger Doug at every live performance since 1979.
  • Incredibly Long Note: The grand finale of "That's How the Yodel Was Born" has two.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: The Riders appeared as themselves alongside Daffy Duck in the Duck Dodgers animated series. They also appeared as themselves in Stanley's Dinosaur Round-Up.
  • Lethal Chef: LaBour's alternate character, Sidemeat, serves as the cook at the Riders' (fictional) ranch and is implied to be this, with Woody Paul once insulting "those lead-lined hockey pucks you call 'biscuits'."
  • Live Album: Riders In The Sky Live! (1983), The Cowboy Way (1987), Lassoed Live at the Schermerhorn with the Nashville Symphony (2009), and parts of Silver Jubilee (2003).
  • Location Song: "Nevada", "Old El Paso", and "Blue Montana Skies" are just a few examples of songs inspired by a certain location the Riders have performed.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: They were a trio from 1978 to 1992 or '93, when Joey became an official member of the band, and have been a quartet ever since.
  • Parental Love Song: "Pretty Prairie Princess", written by Woody Paul shortly after his daughter was born.
  • Polka Dork: Joey The Cow-Polka King.
  • Record Producer: Joey Miskulin not only plays for Riders In The Sky, but produces their albums as well.
  • Running Gag: Several times during each concert, Woody or Slim will talk about something, then Doug will gently reprimand them by saying "You fellers know that would be the easy way. But it wouldn't be the cowboy way."
  • Titled After the Song: Ghost Riders In The Sky, although they are actually named after the album Riders In The Sky by The Sons of The Pioneers (which itself is named after the song).
  • Title Track: Three on the Trail, Cowboy Jubilee, Prairie Serenade, Harmony Ranch, and Always Drink Upstream from the Herd are all albums named after songs appearing on said albums.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: The Riders appeared as themselves on a cowboy-themed episode of Barney & Friends.
  • Sidekick Song: The Riders' faithful sidekick and chuckwagon cook Sidemeat occasionally gets to sing a song on the albums, such as "Sidekick Heaven" and "Biscuit Blues"
  • The Something Song: "Cowboy Song" written by Woody Paul.
  • The Stoner: Woody Paul (formerly). A famous story involves the Riders performing at Ronald Reagan's inaugural ball in 1981 and Woody Paul trying to sneak his weed past the Secret Service.
  • Train Song: "Here Comes the Santa Fe".
  • Self-Titled Album: Riders in the Sky in the early 80s. It was later rereleased as Weeds and Water in 1983.
  • Singer-Songwriter: All of the band members have written songs and performed said-songs on their albums.
  • Stage Names: All of the members use stage names.
  • Villain Song: "Someone's Got to Do It" from Horse Opera.
    • "Compadres in the Old Sierra Madres", a song about an outlaw hideout hidden in the mountains, could be considered a Villain Song since the outlaws are willing to kill any lawman who stumbles across their secret hideaway.