Loved for their charisma and comedic flair since 1977, the original classic cowboy quartet Riders in the Sky is still going strong, embarking on a year-long national tour with a stop planned for Grass Valley Friday, presented by the Center for the Arts.
The original members of Riders in the Sky have kept a country music tradition alive and revitalized a genre passed on by the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
“For 35 years and over 4 million miles, we’ve tried to do justice to the music and its tradition and, oh yeah, have a few hundred thousand laughs along the way,’” said bass pluckster Too Slim.
Riders in the Sky have been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame, the Country Music Foundation’s Walkway of Stars, and the Walk of Western Stars along with Gene, Roy, John Wayne and other cowboy legends. The Western Music Association has named the group “Entertainers Of the Year” six times.
They have won two Grammy Awards and stand out as the only exclusively Western artists to win such an honor. Riders performed “Woody’s Round Up” in “Toy Story 2” on an album that garnered the group its first Grammy Award in 2001 for “Best Musical Album for Children.” Two years later, Riders roped their second Grammy in the same category, for “Monsters Inc. – Scream Factory Favorites,” the companion CD to Pixar’s award-winning movie. They also wrote the score for Pixar Animation’s 2002 Academy Award-winning short, “For the Birds.”
Riders in the Sky’s first official public performance was Nov. 11, 1977, with Ranger on arch-top guitar and baritone vocals and Too Slim on bunkhouse bass and tenor vocals before a small audience at the Nashville nightspot, “Phranks & Steins.” Soon Woody Paul “King of the Cowboy Fiddlers” on fiddle, tenor vocals and rope tricks joined in. Later came Joey the “Cowpolka King” on accordion and baritone vocals..
Since those early days, all four Riders have made more than 5,400 concert appearances in all 50 states and 10 countries, appearing in venues everywhere from the Nashville National Guard Armory to Carnegie Hall and from county fairs to the Hollywood Bowl.
As part of the annual Best of the West awards, True West Magazine named Riders in the Sky “Best Western Music Group” of 2013.
“It is an honor indeed to be recognized by a magazine which, like us, has spent many years treasuring, preserving, and keeping alive the true spirit of the West. It’s the Cowboy Way!” said Ranger Doug, the band’s yodeler and guitar slinger.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. Friday performance are $28 for members of the Center and $34 for non-members. They can be purchased at the Center box office, BriarPatch Co-op or online at http://thecenterforthearts.org/tickets/. For information about the group, go to http://ridersinthesky.com.