This particular song stands out as one that I was fascinated with. I loved it whenever it played on the 8-track.
"(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend" was written in 1948 by Stan Jones. A number of versions were crossover hits on the pop charts in 1949. The ASCAP database lists the song as "Riders in the Sky", but the title has been written as "Ghost Riders", "Ghost Riders in the Sky", and "A Cowboy Legend".
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.
More than 50 performers have recorded versions of the song. The melody is based on the song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." According to Robby Krieger, it inspired the classic Doors song "Riders on the Storm."
The song was also the inspiration for the Magazine Enterprises' horror-Western comic-book character the Ghost Rider. 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.
Stan Jones (June 5, 1914 - Dec 13, 1963)
Stan Jones was born and raised on a ranch in Douglas, Arizona. When his father died, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles. While attending the University of California at Berkeley, he competed in rodeos to make money. He dropped out of university in 1934 to join the US Navy. After his service in the Navy, he worked many jobs, including as a miner, a fire fighter, and a park ranger. In his free time he wrote songs, and eventually more than 100 were recorded. His most famous, "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky", was written in 1948 when he worked for the National Park Service in Death Valley, California. Assigned as technical advisor to the filming of The Walking Hills, he became friends with director John Ford, who opened his way into Hollywood.
Jones wrote almost entirely Western music. He composed songs for several Western movies by Ford and others producers, including The Searchers and Rio Grande. He also played small parts in several westerns.
In 1955 Jones began writing for Disney Studios. He was co-writer of the theme song for the television series Cheyenne, and in 1956 was hired to play Deputy Harry Olson in the syndicated television series Sheriff of Cochise (1956–1958), which starred John Bromfield as law enforcement officer Frank Morgan. After its first season, Sheriff of Cochise was renamed by Desilu Studios owner Desi Arnaz, Sr., as U.S. Marshal. Jones wrote again for John Ford's Civil War film The Horse Soldiers, in which he made an uncredited appearance as Ulysses S. Grant. The following year, he returned to working for Disney Studios. One major role for him was in playing the part of Wilson Brown, a Union soldier and locomotive engineer who was a member of the Andrews Raid depicted in Disney's film The Great Locomotive Chase. In his final film, Ten Who Dared, Jones appeared as Seneca Howland, a member of John Wesley Powell's 1869 expedition. He also is credited for song writing for this film.