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Top Groups/Duos: #44 – Riders In The Sky

April 4, 2009

Riders in the Sky appearing at the Ponca Theatre in Ponca City, Oklahoma on September 29, 2007 at a concert commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gene Autry. From left to right are Joey the Cow Polka King, Woody Paul, Ranger Doug and Too Slim.

 

Members:lead singer/guitarist Ranger Doug(Douglas B. Green), singer/fiddler Woody Paul(Paul Chrisman), singer/bassist Too Slim(Fred LaBour), and Joey the Cowpolka King Joey Miskulin on accordion.

Country music isn’t all about making it big at radio or being popular with everyone over the age of childhood. That’s what has made the Riders In The Sky such a huge part of the genre. As a band, the group built its music not around the expectations and hopes of making themselves a famous band among the older crown, but instead built it’s music around taking country music to a place it has rarely ever been, to children.

 

The early days of the band was spent as a trio, with Joey Miskulin joining the party later on. Although the band never really attempted to make their mark on radio or on the charts, they became a relatively popular “cowboy” group who embraced the style and classic imagery of the traditional singing cowboy. After beginning their journey as a country group in 1977, the band quickly earned an image as a novelty act formed not to conform to the changing genre, but to preserve it for generations to come.

As their touring grew so did their traditional image as each of them took casual cowboy nicknames which became popular parts of their act. Their shows were often introduced by presenting “The Idol of American Youth” Ranger Doug, Woody Paul, “The King of the Cowboy Fiddlers”, “The Man of a Thousand Hats” Too Slim, and Joey “The Cowpolka King”. Avoiding a less mature and family friendly image, the Riders managed to gather a devoted following through thousands of appearances in both TV and radio including over 300 shows at the Grand Ole Opry and several Christmas appearances on TNN and CMT.

The Riders In The Sky’s rise to popularity stemmed from their respectable image and consideration for the classics. In addition to comedic skits and original material, the band becaem one of the most well know classic cover acts in the genre. Their comedic skits and original offerings were also well known for their tasteful and simple life lessons usually culminating to Ranger Doug responding by saying “You fellers know that that would be the easy way. But it wouldn’t be the cowboy way!” The band soon found a place in the hearts of parents as their family friendly material became a great starting point for their children to be introduced to the genre.

The band was given the nickname “America’s Favorite Cowboys” and were later invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, an invite they gladly accepted. Feeding into their image the band has made several guest appearances on the Daffy Duck cartoon Duck Dodgers, the children’s show Barney & Friends, as a backing band for contestant Taylor Ware on America’s Got talent, and as the singers of “Woody’s Roundup” from the popular sequel film Toy Story 2. Their image lives on today as both a classical country band and a children’s band and their two Grammy Awards, membership in the Opry and resume of accomplishment in film and television have solidified their place as country greats. The Riders In The Sky have become the definitive introductory band for future country fans to come and bring a whole new feeling of respect to both the music and to life for their young crowd.

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