Riders in the Sky

Over the weekend, we got to see one of my favorite groups, Riders in the Sky. If you haven’t heard of them, then where have you been for the last 33 years? They are a western musical group, who also put on a hilarious show in addition to some wonderful western harmonies. These days, they are probably best known for singing the song “Woody’s Roundup” from Toy Story 2, and then the Woody’s Roundup CD that went along with that. But that isn’t all they have done.

I first came across them back in 1983 when the magic of cable television brought the Nashville Network into our home. The Riders would occasionally show up on Nashville Now and other shows, and I was immediately hooked. Their music was exceptional, and it was hard to tell the difference between the classic cowboy songs and their original compositions because the had such a good handle on that musical genre. But I was equally entertained by their comedy, and their style of humor probably helped shape my sense of comedy as it is today. So yes, you can blame them for that.

Over the years, I bought many of their CDs, and I have a pretty good collection of them now. But except for the occasional live CD, the comedy of their live show isn’t all that apparent on their recordings. But they are still worth having because of the great music there.

It seemed like the Riders would never come around here for a show. It could be that they came a few times and I somehow missed it, especially in the days before the internet made keeping up with your favorite not-quite-mainstream artists much easier. So before this weekend, we had only seen them in person one time, and that was at a cowboy festival at the Booth Museum in Cartersville, Georgia.

So then we were thrilled that they were coming here for a show, and we got our tickets several months in advance. Which was a good thing, because the show sold out. We were actually the first ones there, not necessarily because we are rabid fans, but because eating out didn’t take nearly as long as we thought it would. So we took a walk around the lake next to the arts center, and there we encountered Too Slim walking around the lake as well. But at the time he was just Fred, in his normal clothes, listening to his iPod, so we didn’t bother him in his peaceful moment of dodging the occasional goose.

The show was great, as was expected. I think even those who were just there because they were season ticket holders for the arts center were impressed by their talent. We laughed until we cried. When the Riders took requests, some smart alec requested “Surfin’ USA”, and they even sang that. Woody Paul showed off some of his rope tricks with commentary by Too Slim and Two Jaws in an impromptu moment while Ranger Doug went to the back to tune his guitar. And I’m always amazed how Joey makes playing the accordion look effortless.

And because the Riders are just down-to-earth guys, they gladly meet the fans after the show, signing autographs and posing for pictures. Here we are with the guys after the show:

Riders in the Sky

My parents went along with us, because they like the Riders as well, although they hadn’t been to one of their shows before. So here is their picture, too:

Riders in the Sky

One thing I had wanted to do was to get them to autograph the picture we had taken with them the last time we saw them, which was three and a half years ago. They all gladly obliged, asking when and where it had been taken, and commenting on how Jaylin had grown. You can see Woody Paul’s distinctive brand autograph on his shoulder:

Riders in the Sky

There was a sign outside that said no cameras for the show. So I followed the rules and didn’t take my camera in. Although if I had taken a picture during the show, I wouldn’t have been the only one. But anyway, just for fun, here is a picture of that previous show we attended at Cartersville, Georgia, in October 2007:

Riders in the Sky

As Ranger Doug said during the show, “Maybe it won’t take us 33 years to get back here.” I sure hope he’s right.

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.