Stan Jones, western actor and songwriter, wrote “Ghost Riders In The Sky” in 1948. The song is based on the tune of “Johnny I Hardly Knew ya”, a traditional English melody that also begat “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again”. Since then it has been performed by many of the great acts in the music world. I have over 50 versions of the song in my iTunes collection from the country greats like Johnny Cash, Gene Autry, Slim Whitman, Willie Nelson, and The Highwaymen, the great guitar players like Duane Eddy, Chet Atkins, Roy, Clark and Glen Campbell, the sublime like Burl Ives, Debby Harry, and Marty Robbins, to the ridiculous (Spike Lee, The Trashmen & Na Sha Sha).
Above is an electronic version done by Debbie Harry for the movie “Three Businessmen” I include it here because it shows the variety of styles this song has been treated to. Dick Dale, known as the father of surf music, has a version that fits the surf instrumental style proving this song has crossed over many genre lines and the licks in this can be made to fit any style. Many of the instrumentals versions have incorporated a line two from other great guitar songs. Here’s Roy Clark and Glen Campbell doing it live:
I’m not sure if it’s the story here or the great melody lines in this that endears it to me but I continue to search out old or new versions of this classic.So many great guitar versions of this – The Outlaws and The Shadows come to mind but I’ll leave you with The Ventures version: