GRAMMY-winning Western icons, Riders In The Sky – Ranger Doug, Too Slim, Woody Paul and Joey the CowPolka King – celebrated 40 years of performing music together this year. To mark the anniversary, the band released its 41st album on April 13. The 15-track collection is called 40 Years The Cowboy Way and they will be bringing the new music to the Franklin Theatre on Friday, May 4 at 8 p, purchase tickets online here.
2018 brings more milestone events in partnership with The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Grand Ole Opry and The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
40 years ago, Ranger Doug, Too Slim and the late Windy Bill Collins played that first date on the bitter, cold evening of November 11th, 1977 at Herr Harry’s Frank N’ Stein Rathskeller in Nashville, and small listening room dates followed. By August of the following year demand was building, and while Windy Bill left, Woody Paul joined, and the true professional beginnings of the band began at the Kentucky State Fair, where the trio played 10 days for $2,500 – and bought their own rooms and meals out of that.
The group had guest appearances on the Grand Ole Opry leading to membership in 1982; and a three-year run on The Nashville Network with a TV show called “Tumbleweed Theater,” which led to a seven-year run on public radio with “Riders Radio Theater,” still going strong as a podcast. People Magazine, interested in the Riders phenomenon, ran a story, which caught the eye of a Hollywood producer. And so the second wave broke, sending the boys to Hollywood to star in “Riders In The Sky” on CBS for a year on Saturday mornings, introducing them to yet another generation.
Watch Riders in the Sky backstage at the Opry where they performed with Walmart Yodeler Mason Ramsey.
More recordings, endless show dates, and television appearances followed for a decade before the fine folks at Pixar called and asked the quartet – by this time they had been joined by Joey the CowPolka King – to sing a tune called “Woody’s Roundup” in the movie “Toy Story 2.” Thus, the third wave began, highlighted by a number of projects for Disney, including two albums, both of which won GRAMMY Awards.
Still more road dates and recordings (several on their own Riders Radio Records label) and
other film and television projects have filled the days and weeks and years, and since the quartet has slowed up very little, the numbers begin to add up: an astonishing 7,100 + concerts, 35 years as Grand Ole Opry members, 40 albums (well, now CDs,) and tours of all 50 states and all over the world.
Honors accumulated as well. In addition to the two GRAMMY Awards, Riders received numerous awards from the Western Music Association, including the highest — membership in the Western Music Hall of Fame; numerous Wrangler awards from the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum; awards from the Academy of Western Artists; enshrinement in the Walkway of Western Stars, and more. What began as a celebration of classic Western Music and an evening of hilarity has become a career, and that career has become a legend, one which, 40 years on, shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down much.