(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend

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"(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend"
Published1948, Edwin H. Morris & Co Inc
ReleasedJune 5, 1948
GenreCountry, western
ComposerStan Jones
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"(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend"
Published1948, Edwin H. Morris & Co Inc
ReleasedJune 5, 1948
GenreCountry, western
ComposerStan Jones

"(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend" is a cowboy-styled country/western song written in 1948 by American songwriter Stan Jones.[1] A number of versions were crossover hits on the pop charts in 1949. The ASCAP database lists the song as "Riders in the Sky" (title code 480028324[2]), but the title has been written as "Ghost Riders", "Ghost Riders in the Sky", and "A Cowboy Legend". Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[3]


The song tells a folk tale of a cowboy who has a vision of red-eyed, steel-hooved cattle thundering across the sky, being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys. One warns him that if he does not change his ways, he will be doomed to join them, forever "trying to catch the Devil's herd across these endless skies". Jones said that he had been told the story when he was 12 years old by an old cowboy friend.[1] The story resembles the northern European mythic Wild Hunt.[4]

More than 50 performers have recorded versions of the song. Charting versions were recorded by The Outlaws, Vaughn Monroe ("Riders in the Sky" with orchestra and vocal quartet), which topped the Billboard magazine charts, by Bing Crosby (with the Ken Darby Singers), Frankie Laine, Burl Ives (two different versions), Marty Robbins, The Ramrods and Johnny Cash. Other recordings were made by Eddy Arnold, Peggy Lee (with the Jud Conlon Singers) and Spike Jones and his City Slickers. Gene Autry sang it in the 1949 movie, Riders in the Sky. Jones himself recorded it for his 1957 album "Creakin' Leather."[5] Children of Bodom, Impaled Nazarene and Die Apokalyptischen Reiter have also made covers.

The melody is based on the song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."[6] According to The Doors' Robby Krieger, it inspired the classic song "Riders on the Storm".[7]

The song was also the inspiration for the Magazine Enterprises' horror-Western comic-book character the Ghost Rider.[8] After the trademark to the character's name and motif lapsed, Marvel Comics debuted its own near-identical, non-horror version of the character in Ghost Rider #1 (Feb. 1967), drawn by Ayers. This character was renamed the Phantom Rider when Marvel debuted its demonic motorcyclist character Ghost Rider.

The song may have also been the inspiration for the REO Speedwagon song Ridin' The Storm Out.

The chorus lines of this song are and have been since the 1960s a terrace song of the Aston Villa Football Club of England. The words have been modified to include the line "Holte Enders in the Sky," a reference to the occupants of the vast stand behind the goal at the southern end of the Villa Park stadium.[citation needed]

The song is also referenced in the Def Leppard song "Foolin'", with the line "On and on, we rode the storm".










Additional versions[edit]

Versions in various genres have also been made by the following artists:

Non-English versions[edit]









  1. ^ a b "Stan Jones". Western Music Association. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  2. ^ ascap.com/ace ASCAP search
  3. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Houston, Susan Hilary (1964). "Ghost Riders in the Sky". Western Folklore 23 (3): 153–162. 
  5. ^ Creakin' Leather (1957). Disneyland Records WDL-3015. "Stan Jones sings his own compositions" Recorded by Walt Disney Music Co. Copyright Walt Disney Productions.
  6. ^ "(Ghost) Riders In the Sky by The Outlaws Songfacts". Songfacts.com. 1949-05-14. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  7. ^ "Riders On The Storm by The Doors Songfacts". Songfacts.com. 1950-12-30. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  8. ^ "Dick Ayers: A Life in the 'Gowanus'". Alter Ego 3 (10) (interview part 1 of 2). Autumn 2001. Archived from the original on May 31, 2010.  Co-creator Dick Ayers recalled that editor Vin Sullivan "describe[d] what he wanted in the Ghost Rider" and told Ayers to see the 1949 Disney animated feature The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, one segment of which adapted Washington Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", featuring the Headless Horseman. "[A]nd then he told me to play the Vaughn Monroe record "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky". And then he started talking about what he wanted the guy wearing."
  9. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Record Research. 
  10. ^ Number One Song of the Year: 1946-2013, Bob Borst website
  11. ^ "DICK JENSEN - A DISCOGRAPHY". Stereo Candies. 
  12. ^ DDR Amiga 8 55 957/1982
  13. ^ ČSSR Supraphon 1113 3067 ZA/1982
  14. ^ Collar, Matt. "Ghostrider: Great Guitar Hits - Duane Eddy". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  15. ^ "Ghost Riders in the Sky" (MP3). Debora Harry. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  16. ^ ""Ghostriders in the Sky" on the 2006 Die Apokalyptischen Reiter EP, Friede Sei Mit Dir". discogs.com. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  17. ^ catalog and song samples
  18. ^ Video on YouTube
  19. ^ ""Jinetes en el cielo" by Mexican group, Los Baby's". popsike.com. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Shadows in the Moonlight"
by Anne Murray
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single
(Johnny Cash version)

August 11, 1979
Succeeded by
"You're the Only One"
by Dolly Parton
Preceded by
"Cruising Down the River" by Russ Morgan
U.S. Billboard Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
May 14, 1949–July 23, 1949 (Vaughn Monroe)
Succeeded by
"Some Enchanted Evening" by Perry Como