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Singing cowboys share stories of heartbreak and the Wild West

Riders in the Sky return to Bankhead this weekend
From left, the members of Riders in the Sky are known by their stage names Joey, Woody Paul, Too Slim and Ranger Doug. The group returns to the Bankhead Theater this Nov. 5.

With their leather boots, Western button-ups, traditional hats and large belt buckles, the traveling band Riders in the Sky have shaped a recognizable brand for their country and comedy singing-cowboy group.

After over four decades since their formation, the band continues to tour, write and record music for their loyal fanbase. Riders in the Sky will make a returning appearance at the Bankhead Theater this Sunday to share their twangy and comedic version of traditional Western music.

Members of the band initially came together in 1977 when they had played together, seemingly by chance, in a small Nashville venue. Douglas B. Green, or better known as his stage name Ranger Doug, spoke to this news organization about the band's career.

"It was 46 years ago," Green recalled. "We had all moved to Nashville to get into the music business as young people and we gravitated toward each other in the acoustic music community, so we got to know each other pretty well."

It was in this tight-knit Nashville music community that Green met his future bandmates Fred LaBour and Woody Paul. The lineup changed, however, when they met Joey Miskulin, whom Green called the "CowPolka King".

"It was the three of us for 10 years, and then we became acquainted with Joey. We added him to the group in 1988, and the rest is history," Green said.

Once their foursome lineup was complete, the group began to tour and record rigorously. Together, Riders in the Sky went on to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1982, win two Grammy Awards and play at the Hollywood Bowl.

"Playing the Hollywood Bowl twice was a big one. That's one of the greatest places we've ever played. It's still sort of a miracle to me, after all these years that this really happened, but it did," Green said.

The feelings, authenticity and sounds of traditional Western music is what drew the foursome to the genre, according to Green.

"It's like poetry. This type of music just has something about the beat of it, you know. The feeling is universal, either having your heart broken or laying out under the summer sky," Green said. "It's a combination of interesting melodies, beautiful harmonies and lyrics."

A major part of the band's brand is delivering their Western tunes with a side of comedic relief.

"I love it when we can make the audience laugh, comedy is such a big part of our show. It makes the time go by so quickly," Green said. "We all thought we were pretty funny, and we always wanted to interact with the audience so we would come up with silly stuff. It just developed pretty organically into the band."

Green said the band had two main goals when they first set out on, to preserve this traditional Western music style, and to entertain people.

"American music is like a big musical pie. There's plenty of slices and we don't want to lose any. This is us preserving that style of music, while we're also entertaining," Green said. "Western is a fantastic, beautiful and uniquely American style. It's a blend of so many things. There's blues influence, there's pop influences and swing influences, even mariachi influences. It's just a really rich type of music."

"We want people to be entertained by the stories, sounds and environment that Riders in the Sky shows create. You'll laugh, you'll reminisce and maybe even shed a tear or two during a very heartfelt ballad," he added.

One of their favorite parts of playing live shows is audience interaction.

"We all love seeing new places and meeting new people. We always go out and meet with the audience after the show," Green said. "I love the fact that the age of our fans is so great. We have people our age, the seniors, we have people in the middle and the occasional Gen Z."

In July, the band released their 42nd album, "Throw a Saddle on a Star". Green says the band still hopes to write and record more as the years go on.

To purchase tickets to the show Sunday (Nov. 5) at 3 p.m. in the Bankhead in downtown Livermore, visit

Known for the "Cowboy Way" Riders in the Sky performs vulnerable yet comedic songs about the Wild American West. Image courtesy Riders in the Sky



About the Author: Nicole Gonzales

Nicole Gonzales is a staff reporter for Embarcadero Media’s East Bay Division, the Pleasanton Weekly. Nicole began writing for the publication in July 2022.
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