May 8, 1949 and May 2, 1985 have a musical event in common—
The same song was released by Vaughn Monroe (1949) and the Highwaymen (1985).
This song is often referred to as the ‘Number 1 country music song of all time’*. The song is...
Ghost Riders in the Sky
There are numerous renditions of this song, some more memorable than others. Besides Stan Jones, Vaughn Monroe, and the Highwaymen, here are other artists from across the musical spectrum who have recorded this song.
Bing Crosby – Frankie Laine – Eddie Arnold – Peggy Lee – Duane Eddy – Sons of the Pioneers – Judy Collins – Roy Clark – Lawrence Welk – Baja Marimba Band – Tom Jones – R.E.M. – Elvis Presley – Blues Brothers – Chris LeDoux – Dean Martin – Marty Robbins – Spiderbait (in the Nicholas Cage and Sam Elliott movie, Ghost Rider) – and Christopher Lee (Some ideas are best left unfulfilled. It's a groaner. Look it up on YouTube.)
My favorite cover of Ghost Riders in the Sky is by Marty Robbins.
Vaughn Monroe - His version reached No. 1 on Chart Toppers (pop chart).
Highwaymen - Ghost Riders in the Sky
Historical roots of Ghost Riders in the Sky
The legend of the ghost rider has its roots in Europe, particularly Britanny, Ireland, Wales, Scandinavia, Spain, France, and Germany. Jacob Grimm of the fairy tales Brothers Grimm, developed the idea of the ‘wild hunt’ through comparative mythology that he published as Deutsche Mythologie (1835).
|The Wild Hunt: Asgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo|
My novel, The Gunfighter's Woman, is a paranormal western romance inspired by this legend and the song. I incorporated the wild hunt in the form of the cowboy ghost riders as a motivating force in the hero's life to change his ways before it’s too late. The ghost herd shows up in the following excerpt.
“We have to leave. Your horse is still on the other side. We can ride my horse to the ranch.” Brenna pointed to her horse, Samson, and immediately felt silly for the gesture since the man’s eyes were clamped shut in a grimace of teeth-gritted pain.]
Lightning slashed the sky with an explosion of thunder that shook air and Earth and deafened ears. The man came off the ground in a lunge, feet planted wide, and his attention fixed on the black billowing cloud bank rolling along McBride Mesa to the west. Mesmerized, Brenna stared at the clouds as they transformed into a mighty herd of cattle stampeding along the mesa’s rim. As she watched, the herd curved east, dipping low along the ancient stone wall and then soaring into the sky. The herd doubled-back with the sinuous motion of a Chinese dragon in an undulating journey from ground to towering clouds and back down again.
On the second pass, the cloud-herd swung south and swooped down from Trinchera Pass, passing overhead on a blast of scorching wind. Brenna flinched and ducked as the lead steers overtook them. Samson snorted, bolted, but she held fast to his reins. Eyes blazing with the fires of Hell, the herd pounded the air with steely hooves on peal after peal of thunder as it swung out north across the prairie to come charging low over Pine Canyon on the east.
Then, the clouds split open into a sandy ravine that cut a wide, ragged path to a range in the heavens. Brenna felt their breath in a whoosh of hot wind and saw their black horns glistening and brands flaming with each lightning blaze as the ghost herd plowed up that draw.
“No! Not going. They’re not taking me!”
“What is that?”
The man snaked an arm around Brenna’s waist and tossed her to the saddle then swung up behind her. “Hang on!” Clamping one arm around her middle, he grabbed the saddle horn with his other hand, and slapped spurs to Samson.
The horse reared, leaped, and came down at a dead run, ears flattened against his head, and his neck stretched out. A mournful, skin-prickling cry cut through the air. Hot wind whipped their clothes; lightning-scorched air left an acrid sulphur stench in its wake. Brenna twisted to look behind. The sight coming at them was terrifying and fascinating.
Hurdling from the midst of the churning maelstrom of boiling black clouds came spectral cowboys riding hard and fast after the phantom herd on hollow-eyed, fire-snorting skeleton horses pawing the air as they roared toward them. A low keening wail rose on the wind.
Matthewwwww Matthewwwww Caddockkkkkkk.
The man warned, “Close your eyes! Don’t look!”
But Brenna couldn’t look away from the spectral cowboys charging over them, their gaunt eyes staring from fire-flaming faces as they swung around and away in their relentless pursuit of the ghost herd. Rain burst from the clouds; hail peppered down. A blast of frigid wind hit them broadside...
The Gunfighter’s Woman
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Resources and Further Reading:
*Stan Jones - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Jones_(songwriter)
Megalithic Myths - http://www.athenasweb.com/MegalithicMyths.html