Michael K. Ward
“Maverick songster Stan Jones gave us ‘Ghost Riders’ and other unforgettable themes that heartened our mythic West. Now Michael Ward has lassoed the spirit of the ghost writer himself in a book you’ll soon love. Ride forever.” – Bill Broyles
Michael Ward grew up in Southern California and received a BA in Humanities from California State University at Chico in 1976. In January 1977, he put his college degree to practical use and began washing dishes at the Furnace Creek Inn. He eventually climbed the Fred Harvey ladder to become the assistant manager of the company’s retail operations based at the Furnace Creek General Store.
In June 1990, he accepted a position as a biological technician with the National Park Service in Death Valley where his attention, gratefully, shifted from ordering longhorn cheese to monitoring bighorn sheep. In May 1992, he began work as a biotech at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, where he continues to keep tabs on the leopard frogs, tortoises, and peregrine falcons that reside in the Rincon Mountains.Ward is currently working to complete this biography of Stan Jones who composed the famous western ballad Ghost Riders In The Sky while working as an National Park Service ranger in Death Valley. Ward has regularly attended or presented papers at Death Valley History Conferences since 1988. His talk includes a brief biographical sketch of Stan Jones’ early years in the border town of Douglas, Arizona, where Stan’s boyhood experiences inspired many of the over 200 songs that he wrote and published after reluctantly retiring from the Park Service. Ward focuses on Stan’s career with the National Park Services that included a stint at Mt. Rainier before he and Olive, his wife, transferred to Death Valley in August of 1946.
Ward tells the story of how Stan was “discovered” by a movie company filming on location at Stovepipe Wells and then traces the path of his most famous song—Ghost Riders in the Sky—from the front porch at Emigrant to the top of the American popular music charts.
Following his presentation, Keeter Stuart, a great-nephew of Stan Jones and a professional musician, treats the audience to a performance of many of his uncle’s other renowned songs.
Keeter Stuart was born in California and spent time as a boy living in both Mexico and Tahiti. The musical bug bit him early on and by high school was singing and playing guitar whenever he got the chance. He developed his songwriting skills and eventually landed in Portland, Oregon, where he co-lead a popular country rock band, Trigger’s Revenge, that always closed their shows with a powerful version of “Ghost Riders In The Sky”.
Keeter has also opened shows for the likes of Chris Hillman, Doc Watson, and Emmy Lou Harris. He was just recently inspired to record a fine CD consisting entirely of his Uncle Stan Jones’ songs entitled Ghost Riders, Searchers, and Cowpokes. To hear a sampling of songs from this record and to learn more about the biography of Keeter go to http://keeterstuart.com.
All of Ward’s presentation and more are well-researched and documented in his upcoming book, Ghost Riders In The Sky: The Life of Stan Jones, the Singing Ranger.
Ghost Riders in the Sky: The Life of Stan Jones, The Singing Ranger is currently in the process of publication, and will hopefully include a music CD. Please sign up here to receive periodic updates on publishing progress and LIKE us on facebook to learn more Stan Jones tidbits and listen to other lyrics of this colorful singing ranger’s life.