Riders in The Sky returns to OK Theatre
Riders brought their unique blend of music and comedy to Wallowa County for a sold-out show in 2015. This time around they are playing two shows — one for the kids and one for the adults.
Ranger Doug Green said the band formed in Nashville and got its start at a songwriters’ hangout called Franks and Steins.
“It was a tiny little listening room with a room for singer/songwriters that served beer and hot dogs,” Green said.
The chemistry among the band members goes beyond the music.
“After that first jam session I couldn’t quit laughing for several days,” Green said. “I told the guys, ‘We have to do this again.’”
Forty years later, Green said they are still combining music with what he called “left field” humor.
“We are preserving a wonderful slice of American culture that is safe for everyone,” Green said.
Along with their 2017 tour and regular appearances at the Grand Ol’ Opry, Green said an album is forthcoming to celebrate the group’s milestone. Green said the working title is “40 Years the Cowboy Way — My God What Have We Done With Our Lives?” The album features a couple new songs and old favorites.
“It’s mostly stuff we’ve worked on and had in the can for years,” Green said. “We refreshed some of the things we’d done in the past, and we are proud of it.”
To accompany the album, Green said, a 40th anniversary tour book will be released with photos of their shows played all over the world.
As Green said, the Riders are known for their decades-long dedication to preserving classic cowboy music from the 1930s and ’40s, but Green is also a songwriter.
“I get in the songwriting mood and just do it,” Green said. “I have at least 200 songs that will never get recorded.”
But exercising the writing muscle does prove fruitful.
“Often when I get in this kind of spirit and write two or three or four songs, maybe one is good enough to perform or record,” Green said.
Most of the songs are about the West, Green said.
“Musically that’s what we are trying to do — preserve that appreciation of the West,” Green said.
Green said Nashville, the country music capital of the world, is where country music and western music were teased apart. He said he considers western music an integral part of America’s folk music tradition, like Cajun and bluegrass.
“One of the music publications invented the term ‘country and western,’ looking for a way to bring glamor to hillbilly music,” he said.
In the 1930s and ’40s the terms, to a degree, were interchangeable, Green said. “Every barn dance had a cowboy or two on the roster.”
As the style evolved, made popular in movies by Gene Autry, western became its own distinct style.
“Nashville became the hub of everything and tried to distance itself from the old-fashioned and dowdy country western style,” Green said.
While the country music industry became more glamorous, Riders held on to the early 20th century style.
“We are the one percent left of country and western,” Green said. “Many of our fellow performers love what we do. It’s a different breadth of country music.”
Audiences of all ages love them too, not only those who remember the classic cowboy movies and tradition.
“We have a lot of young audiences,” Green said. “Young people bring their kids and say, ‘My parents brought me to see you in 1986 and I wanted my kids to see you, too.”
As for the future of country music, Green said, “It’s amazing to me how many young musicians there are in bluegrass. I think it’s great when I find a young person who has a whole sense of history, keeping something precious alive — contributing and writing. They know where the music comes from and that it’s not just a museum piece.”
Country music in all of its genres is the soundtrack to the American West and Green said traveling to their 100 road shows a year affords him a lot of time to take in the scenery.
“We see a lot of America. Just looking out the window makes you want to write a song.”
The kids’ matinee is at 3:30 p.m. Each adult ticket admits one adult and one 6 to 12 year old child. Kids 13 and older are admitted with an adult ticket. Children 5 and younger are admitted free of charge.
Doors open for the main event at 6 p.m. Heidi Muller and Bob Webb take the stage at 7 p.m., and Riders in the Sky performs at 8 p.m.
Tickets for the evening show are $40 and available at M. Crow and Company in Lostine, The Dollar Stretcher in Enterprise, Joseph Hardware in Joseph, www.eventbrite.com and at the door the night of the show.