Here’s a recap of just a few of the chapters in Ghost Riders In The Sky: The Life of Stan Jones—the Singing Ranger.
In chapter 3… Stan’s adolescence is marked by his mother’s struggles to keep her family afloat during the deep economic recession that impacted the copper industry in Douglas following WWI. Stan and his town pals rounded up free-ranging burros and rode out to the cattle ranches east of town, where they became steeped in cowboy lore and lifestyle.
One old-timer takes a shining to Stan and introduces him to a legend of cowboys galloping across the cloudy skies during a storm, an image that the young cowpoke carries into adulthood. Stan picks up a guitar for the first time.
In chapter 7… Famed film director John Ford arrives in Death Valley with his Hollywood entourage in the spring of 1948 to shoot scenes for “The Three Godfathers.” Stan is on the set one day and enrages Ford when he interrupts a scene of John Wayne trying to squeeze water out of a cactus. The interaction between the two sets the stage for Stan to eventually be hired by Ford to compose songs for three of his western films after Stan has left Death Valley.
Another film company arrives to shoot “the Walking Hills” featuring Randolph Scott. Scott hears Stan singing his songs for the movie company and encourages him to go to Hollywood to try and get them published.
In chapter 9… Burl Ives releases his record of “Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)” in February 1949, and the song starts to make waves within the music industry. Bandleader Vaughn Monroe follows with his arrangement of Stan’s song, released in April 1949, and this version becomes an immediate success with over a million copies sold by June. Stan receives a large royalty check from his publisher but wants to retain his job in Death Valley.
Stan struggles to divide his time between the demands of his newfound fame and his responsibilities as a park ranger. He and Olive are discouraged that “Riders” had not been played on the Saturday night radio show “Your Hit Parade” yet. In late May, on their car radio at Emigrant Ranger Station, they finally hear Stan’s number one song, and know that their lives will never be the same.
In chapter 13… Dobe Carey signs on with Walt Disney to star in “Spin and Marty,” a serialized story about a dude ranch for adolescent boys on the weekly Mickey Mouse Club television show. Carey urges Disney to bring his friend Stan on with him and The Singing Ranger writes the show’s “Triple R” theme song. He plays a minor guitar playing character that leads the boys in song around the campfire. This leads to other song writing and acting assignments by the Walt Disney Company.
Stan inspires a weekly television show, “Sheriff of Cochise,” and plays the role of deputy sheriff, Frank Morgan, for two seasons. The town of Douglas fetes Stan in 1957 with “Stan Jones Day,” in conjunction with an annual rodeo and parade. Stan records an album on Walt Disney records, “Songs of the National Parks.”