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Comedic band rides into Dahlonega

Riders in the Sky to entertain audience with its 'cowboy way'

POSTED: November 21, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Grammy award-winning comedy and Western group Riders in the Sky will perform at the Historic Holly Theatre in Dahlonega this Saturday.

The classic cowboy quartet likens themselves to famous Western acts such as the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers with the express goal of reviving and revitalizing the “cowboy way.” The Riders seem to have realized that goal by amassing an impressive number of accomplishments and accolades during their 36-year career. Not only have they performed more than 6,100 shows, but they also have won two Grammy awards, are members of the Grand Ole Opry, spawned two television series, released more than 30 albums and produced a number of songs for Disney’s Pixar movies including the song “Woody’s Round Up” for the animated movie “Toy Story 2.”

Riders in the Sky is made up of a diverse group of people such as a theoretical plasma physicist, a wildlife manager and galvanizer, an English major and a Polka Hall of Fame member. Guitarist and lead singer “Ranger Doug” is the group’s de facto spokesman and author of “Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy,” which chronicles the rise and fall of singing cowboy films and musicians.

The Times had a chance to ask Ranger Doug a few questions about Riders in the Sky and their upcoming show.

Question: What attracted you to a career in music and comedy?

Answer: I grew up with Western music like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. I always loved the sound of it live and watched it a lot. It was just so different. It was very literary and the music is actually very complicated. You are singing and playing through a whole bunch of chords. I think the appeal of it was that it is something more than songs about broken hearts. It talked about the prairie and cowboy life and I like all of it. I loved it actually.

Q: How did you get involved with Riders in the Sky?

A: Every community has an acoustic music underground. Guys get together, whether its old-time music or bluegrass, and play. I had the idea for two or three years before that I would put together a band to sing those old songs. Not many people wanted to sing it because it is difficult. But I managed to get a group together and we had our first show on Nov. 11, 1977. We laughed, the audience laughed and they were reintroduced to that music and we been going ever since.

Q: What will the upcoming show be like?

A: It’s a mixture of three things really. Classic Western music, original Western music that we wrote very much in the style and comedy. We do sketches and skits and ad lib all the time on stage. People really enjoy that because it’s a way to get away from the rising mortgage rates, shrinking 401(K)’s and the teenagers at home and just come to laugh and sing for a while.

Q: Riders in the Sky has been together for 36 years, what has kept you guys together all that time?

A: Stubbornness. We still feel we have that mission of keeping the music alive. It’s a life we’ve chosen and we’re lucky to be able make a living doing it. In a lot of bands, egos get in the way, but we’re lucky that we’ve been able to put our egos in the backseat and stay together.

Q: What do you love most about performing?

A: I like to see people laugh. There is something joyful in bringing laughter out of someone who may need it. Also, I like to see the music move people. The beauty of the West and the beauty of the music are something that most people can appreciate.

Q: What is it like having songs featured on a variety of children’s television shows and movies?

A: It’s part of the whole fabric of the career. Part of it is aimed at children and has been all along. Of course, it’s fun. The kids love that sound, the beat and that look. And if we can introduce a new generation to the music, that would be great. We get people who come up and say “My parents brought me to your show when I was a kid and now I am here with my kids because I loved it so much.” That happened the other night at our show in Oklahoma.


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