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Stan Jones and “Ghost Riders in the Sky”

Stan Jones MS

Stanley Davis “Stan” Jones (June 5, 1914 – December 13, 1963) was an American songwriter and actor, primarily writing Western music, who is best remembered for writing the legendary “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” which has been called the #1 Western song ever written.  Jones was born in Douglas, Arizona, o  June 5, 1914. and grew up on a ranch. When his father died, his mother moved the family to Los Angeles, California. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, competing in rodeos to make money. However, he dropped out in 1934 to join the United States Navy. After his discharge, he worked at many jobs, including as a miner, a fire fighter, and a park ranger.

In his free time Jones wrote songs, and eventually more than 100 were recorded. His most famous, “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” was written in 1948 when he worked for the National Park Service in Death Valley, California. Assigned as technical advisor to the filming of The Walking Hills, he became friends with director John Ford, who opened his way into Hollywood.  Jones wrote almost entirely Western music. He composed songs for several Western movies by Ford and others producers, including The Searchers and Rio Grande. He also played small parts in several westerns.

In 1955 Jones began writing for Disney Studios. He was co-writer of the theme song for the television series Cheyenne, and in 1956 was hired to play Deputy Harry Olson in the syndicated television series Sheriff of Cochise (1956–1958), which starred John Bromfield as law enforcement officer Frank Morgan. After its first season, Sheriff of Cochise was renamed by Desilu Studios owner Desi Arnaz, Sr., as U.S. Marshal. Jones wrote again for John Ford’s Civil War film The Horse Soldiers, in which he made an uncredited appearance as Ulysses S. Grant. The following year, he returned to working for Disney Studios.  One major role for him was in playing the part of Wilson W. Brown, a Union soldier and locomotive engineer who was a member of the Andrews Raid depicted in Disney’s film The Great Locomotive Chase.

In his final film, Ten Who Dared, Jones appeared as Seneca Howland, a member of John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition. He also is credited for song writing for this film.  Three of his songs, “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” the theme from “The Searchers,” and “Cowpoke” were chosen by members of the Western Writers of America as being among the Top 100 Western songs of all time.  He died from cancer in Los Angeles, CA, on December 13, 1963, at the age of 49. His remains were buried at Julia Page Memorial Park in his hometown, Douglas, Arizona.  In 1997, he was posthumously inducted into the Western Music Association Hall of Fame.

The following work by Stan Jones is contained in my collection:

Riders in the Sky (1948).

 

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