Monday, January 31, 2005


gun crazy

Vaughn Monroe, (Ghost) Riders in the Sky

Monroe's sonorous ode to a crew of damned cowboys in the sky chasing what appears to be Satan's own breed of cattle (Black Angus, one wonders) was a huge pop hit in the summer of '49, quickly spawning competing versions from Peggy Lee (!), Bing Crosby and Burl Ives.

The original rendition of the song, sung by Gene Autry for the film of the same name, is a standard Western uptempo number, but Monroe's version is bizarre cowboy Camp, featuring the leaden wonder that is Monroe's baritone. How low could the man's voice get? You could bore a hole through a wall with the thing if you amplified it enough. It's as if Monroe is competing with the ghost of Frank C. Stanley, the killer bass who recorded "A Hundred Fathoms Deep" at the turn of the century.

Although Monroe did turn up on "Bonanza" in the 1960s, he wasn't much of a cowboy singer but rather was the sort of genial, unthreatening presence who embalmed the mainstream pop charts in the 1945-55 period.

You can find "Ghost Riders" on Stampede!, a collection of the latter days of the classic Western, here.

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