News Column

Riders in the Sky to take Princess by storm

October 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 06--Take the classic sound of Gene Autry, add in the antics of Monty Python and the outfits of Roy Rogers, complete with sequins, to get Riders in the Sky.

"We are a little bit like the campy, old-time Westerns. We have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs, yet play beautiful Western music and keep that wonderful tradition alive," said frontman Doug Green, better known as Ranger Doug.

The two-time Grammy Award-winning Western group will serve as the main event of the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Art's 30th Celebration week.

"We thought Riders in the Sky would be perfect. The Western theme ties into the Princess' beginning in 1887 as a livery stable for the Casa Grande Hotel," said Lindy Ashwander, executive director of the arts center.

The group, which features "Ranger Doug" Green, "Woody Paul" Chrisman, "Too Slim" Fred LaBour and Joey "the Cowpolka King" Miskulin will perform "Round Up at the Kids Corral" on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

"The kids' show is a bit more up-tempo. That rhythm is part of what kids love so much. That's why Western music is so appealing to them, along with the outfits of course," Green said. "Now, we never have a vulgar show but there are double entendres in the later show that mom and dad will get a good grin out of."

In the past 35 years, the group has performed in more than 5,000 venues in 10 countries, shared the screen with Barney, Penn & Teller and Daffy Duck and recorded songs for "Toy Story 2" and "Monsters Inc."

"I feel like we've given this music a whole new recognition. It had been fading and we came along and brought it to a whole new generation and have had a great time doing it. We want to see this thing continue to live and grow and thrive," Green said.

Members:

--Ranger Doug, vocals and guitar

--Woody Paul, vocals and fiddle

--Too Slim, vocals and bass

--Joey the Cowpolka King, accordion

How did the group form?

We all knew each other from playing in other bands and we all realized how beautiful this style was and saw how it was just being swept away into the nostalgic corner. When it was thought of at all, it was thought of as something dead and gone and museum worthy and we thought it was very much alive. We found it to be lyrically very poetic and musically quite complex, although it sounds effortless and easy.

What is the difference between Western and country music?

Western music has its own unique sound. It tends to be more acoustic and not about feeling sorry for yourself and unhappy affairs. It's about the outdoors and being close to nature and appreciating that life. It relates more to kids. As a kid you don't know about a faithless lover and getting drunk in the barroom but you can relate to riding horses and singing songs and having fun out on the trail.

Where did the name come from?

We were looking for a name and decided the Spice Girls was not going to work. Slim was looking through a record rack and a brand new double album of classics by the Sons of the Pioneers had just been released and the title was "Riders in the Sky." He took on look at that title and said, "We've got our name." It says Western. It says who we are.

Ever been star-struck?

It was pretty hard to sing for Roy Rogers. Just to have him sit there through a whole performance, you know you've got to be good. This is the guy who started the Sons of the Pioneers and was an American icon. He was one of the most gracious men we ever met.

You've played in 50 states. How is it playing for areas not aware of Western music?

It's different. When you get up to places like New York, it's more like presenting folklore. You kind of have to explain it to them a little bit, where as if we play in Texas or Oklahoma or Oregon or California, they just get it.

After 35 years, what keeps Riders in the Sky motivated?

I've got a freshman in college, so we'll be working for at least four more years, I guarantee it. We still love it. Our mission to entertain and keep this tradition alive is still a driving force for us. And we're sort of hams, we like to entertain. To have this much fun at this time of life, what a joy. I count my blessings every day.

If you go

Riders in the Sky "Round Up at the Kids Corral," Friday, 4:30-5:10 p.m., $10.

Riders in the Sky Concert, Friday, 7:30 p.m., $20-$30.

Both performances will take place at the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts. For more information or tickets, visit www.princesstheatre.org.

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(c)2013 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)

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