Ramblin' Rhodes

Stroll down memory lane with music columnist Don Rhodes.

A Riders in the Sky discovery: Their music is out of this world

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"R anger Doug" Green has become used to a lot of amazing things happening over the past 33 years with his Riders in the Sky Western music group. But waking up astronauts certainly was one of those unexpected moments.

Riders in the Sky  special
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Riders in the Sky

At 6:53 a.m. on Feb. 26, crew members on the final mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery were awakened by Mission Control playing Riders In The Sky's recording of Woody's Roundup from the movie Toy Story 2 .

"Wasn't that amazing?" Green said in a call. "We just loved it. That was just something that came out of the blue. We didn't know it was going to happen and read about it on the Internet like everybody else."

He added, "It was just extremely special -- cowboys in space."

Green and his two-time Grammy-winning, Grand Ole Opry-singing partners return to Augusta for the Augusta Symphony's Pops at the Bell series at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Tickets are $42.12, $31.84, $33.72 and $18.76 third balcony. Visit http://augustasymphony.org or call the symphony office at (706) 826-4705.

Besides "Ranger Doug" on guitar, Riders in the Sky consist of Fred "Too Slim" LaBour on upright bass, Paul Woodrow "Woody Paul" Chrisman on fiddle and Joey "The Cowpolka King" Miskulin on accordion.

They are used to performing with symphony orchestras. The group's current CD, in fact, Riders in the Sky Lassoed Live at the Schermerhorn was recorded with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in that city's Schermerhorn Symphony Hall.

"We've done many, many symphony concerts including with the Boston Pops and the Los Angeles Philharmonic," Green said, "but we never had recorded one of those shows.

"It feels wonderful having a huge orchestra behind you; like being on the music soundtrack of an old John Wayne western movie. It's an incredible physical experience that translates so well to western music."

Green recalled the first symphonic grouping with Riders in the Sky came during one of President Ronald Reagan's inaugurations with the then-Riders trio performing in one of the Smithsonian's buildings with the Houston Pops Orchestra.

Each November, Green updates a list of "anniversary milestones" on the group's Web site ridersinthesky.com.

That list of accomplishments and unusual bits of show business history notes the group over the past 33 years has performed more than 6,000 appearances in 12 countries and all 50 states with the group having traveled about 4 million miles by plane, train, bus or whatever.

Also in that time, the foursome group has amassed 12 wives, 22 kids and nine grandchildren. They also have recorded 35 albums, made four White House appearances (for both Republicans and Democrats) and have been honored with two Grammy Awards.

Both of the Grammys were for Best Musical Album For Children: their 2001 CD Woody's Roundup: A Rootin' Tootin' Collection of Woody's Favorite Songs and 2003 CD Monsters, Inc. Scream Factory Favorites .

"The Pixar movie people were working on Toy Story 2 and they wanted a song for the character Woody to have for his TV show," Green related.

"(Songwriter-singer) Randy Newman wrote Woody's Roundup for it, but his voice didn't match a '50s TV show. One of the producers turned out to be a fan of ours. He downloaded some of our yodeling, and the rest of the staff liked it."

That's how Riders of the Sky came about recording the song for the hit movie and how their version of the song ended up in a Hallmark birthday card.

"So many things in my career have happened like that out of the blue," Green added. "It's been a great ride these past 33 years. What can I say? We've been lucky. It's mind boggling."

Round 'em up

HEAR AND SEE Riders in the Sky with Ranger Doug Green on guitar performing Woody's Roundup from Toy Story 2:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RabCYSDLOo&feature=related

WANT TO GO?

WHAT: Augusta Symphony Pops at the Bell with Rider in the Sky

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday. WHERE: Bell Auditorium

TICKETS: $42.12 first balcony, $31.84 and $33.72 second balcony, and $18.76 third balcony. Visit http://augustasymphony.org and follow the "buy tickets" links or call (706) 826-4705.


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