Thursday, February 8, 2018
In 1977, Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" topped the year-end Billboard charts, followed by Andy Gibb's "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" and Emotions' "Best of My Love."
Across the pond, a young Sid Vicious joined a little punk rock combo called the Sex Pistols and in Memphis the world said goodbye to Elvis Presley, who passed away that August.
Riders in the Sky
7:30 p.m. today, Arkansas State University, Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Drive, Jonesboro
On Nov. 11, 1977, at a Nashville, Tenn., joint called Phranks & Steins, three western music fans performed for the first time as Riders in the Sky. Much hilarity, hijinks and yodeling has since ensued, which can all be seen tonight as the Riders, who became a quartet not long after that debut over 40 years ago, perform at Fowler Center in Jonesboro.
Ranger Doug, "Idol of American Youth" and the stage name of Riders guitarist/singer Douglas Green, is at home in Nashville, talking about the coming tour and the band's latest, 40 Years The Cowboy Way.
"It's a brand new album that we'll be touring with for the next year or so," Green says. "We've had a few suggestions for a follow-up, but nothing is set yet."
And what, exactly, is the Cowboy Way?
"I often say that in this era of difficult moral choices to make, just ask yourself what Gene Autry, or Roy Rogers, or Tex Ritter or Ranger Doug would do, and that's The Cowboy Way."
Tonight's show will round up music from throughout the Riders' four decades and 40 albums of rootin', tootin', authentic western music.
"We'll be doing songs from the whole spectrum of our career," Green says. "And there will be plenty of comedy. That's always been our stock-in-trade."
And, of course, Green and the other Riders -- Joey the Cowpolka King, Woody Paul and Too Slim -- will do "Woody's Roundup," the song they recorded for the 2000 Pixar film Toy Story 2.
"It was a complete surprise," Green says of Pixar's request for them to take part in the film. "They needed a theme song for Woody's TV show. Randy Newman wrote them a nice song, but they needed somebody authentic to perform it."
A Pixar producer was a Riders in the Sky fan and recommended the group for the soundtrack.
"They called us up, we considered it for a quarter of a second and then said 'YEEESSS!," Green recalls, laughing.
The quartet's music has been featured in Pixar's Cars and the short film For the Birds. They also recorded the Grammy-winning Monsters Inc., Scream Factory Favorites, an album of cover versions of songs from that film's soundtrack as well as original material.
"We all loved Western movies," says Green, a child of the '50s. "They were all over TV and in the theater. Roy Rogers and Gene Autry both had television series. There was live music on TV and some of it was western. It was a bigger part of the culture than it is now."
As for the music, "It was the poetry of lyrics and the complex harmonies and the interesting chords," that drew him to it. "It swings sometimes, and it's very sentimental sometimes. It seemed like a part of the American musical mosaic that shouldn't be forgotten."
But did he ever think that he would still be doing this 40 years after he and his fellow Riders got their start?
"Oh, no," he says with a chuckle. "I always wondered what I'd have to do when my music career collapsed, but it never did."
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