Riders in the Sky


Interview with Charles Grean


Mike Streissguth


Mike: In Chicago, you also produced Vaughn Monroe's "Riders In The Sky" [#2 country, #1 pop, 1949].


Charles: At that time, RCA Victor was a little confused about what to do . . . whether they should have an A&R man with all the power) because previous to that there was a fellow by the name of Eli Oberstein--he was a kingpin, and there was a lot of payola and everything else going on). So they decided to make a committee of all of us to pick songs. They had about six or seven guys. We would sit there, and publishers would come in and play their songs. It was stupid because half the guys had no idea how to pick a song. You could hear a song and it sounds good, but you might not know what to do with it. You have to have some training. They brought this demo of "Riders In The Sky" written by Stan Jones, and as soon as I heard it, I said, "Oh my God! What a piece of material. What an idea! Let me have this song. I'll get Vaughn Monroe to do it!" I called Monroe up, and found out he was going to be in Milwaukee, and he would have an open date in Chicago in a few days. I said, "All right we're going to book you into the Chicago studio. I'll come out and bring you the song. You can learn it over night." I went to Milwaukee the night before the session. I made the arrangement ahead of time, and I showed it to Vaughn. He said, "Fine, I'll try it." I remember I sat in on Monroe's band in Milwaukee. That was a kick. The next day we went to the studio and recorded it. Bucky Pizzarelli and Don Costa were on the session.


Mike: Did you expect the record to click among the country audience?


Charles: No. I'm surprised it made the country charts.




Editor's Note: Charles Randolph Grean was with RCA Victor and worked on a lot of country-western music while there (A&R man). He eventually left and formed his own agency, representing artists such as Betty Johnson (who had been with RCA)--she's on the Vaughn Monroe "Music for Yachtsman" album. Later, he worked with Vaughn Monroe at Dot Records. Still later, he produced Rod records with Vaughn--"God Is Alive" and "Do You Know Where God Lives." He died at 90+ in the early 1990s. (Information provided by Jerry Furris).

Another version surrounding song-writer Stan Jones: The Park Service made Stan its representative to Hollywood film crews when they came to Death Valley. After a long, hot day of filming, cast and crew members often sat around and listened to Stan's songs and stories. They encouraged him to get a publisher in L.A. His songs made the rounds and Burl Ives was given one about a "ghost herd in the sky" which he liked enough to record. When the master was finished, someone called Vaughn Monroe and played it for him. Monroe rushed to L.A. and cut the record himself and released it before Ives' came out. The rest is history - the song became one of Monroe's biggest hits. Dozens of other singers released the tune and a few years later, when asked on a Sons-of-the-Pioneers radio show which version he liked best, he didn't hesitate in saying the Pioneers'. Source:

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