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Christmas gets cowboy treatment in BCPA show

Christmas gets cowboy treatment in BCPA show

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Riders in the Sky cowboy BCPA 121809
Grammy-winning singing cowboy posse Riders in the Sky has been lassoed by the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts for a Christmas show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. (Courtesy photo)

This just in: Ranger Doug and the gang ride again!

Not that they ever came to a halt during their 32-year odyssey as the singing cowboy posse called Riders in the Sky.

But after their first visit several years ago, these sons of the Sons of the Pioneers are moseying on back to town for an encore show - at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

So just how does the well-heeled singing cowboy dress for the season? Especially for a show called "Christmas the Cowboy Way"?

"We try to maintain the same look that we have through the rest of the year," begins Ranger Doug, "except for the holly and the candy canes in our hats ... and the Santa cap Too Slim puts on his bass fiddle ... and the Christmas lights on the cactus."

Yep. Just like the rest of the year.

The Riders' first show here covered their entire history; this weekend's show, says Ranger Doug, will offer a smattering of greatest hits before tilting into a full-blown holiday hoedown in the tradition of Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

You'll smell equal parts pine trees and saddle leather. And you can expect to hear some serious yuletide yodelin', to boot.

"Not to mention the humorous things people like about Riders in the Sky," Ranger Doug adds, referring to quartet's trademark balancing act of singing killer cowboy harmonies while adorned in frilly leather vests, acres of rhinestones, big-buckled belts and spurs that jingle-jangle-jingle.

"You could take four guys and dress them in western clothes and traditions, but if you couldn't perform the music really well, it wouldn't work," Ranger Doug warns.

Ranger Doug, born Douglas B. Green many happy trails ago, is the Riders' ringleader for all seasons, not just Christmas. He packs a trusty guitar and killer baritone vocals. He's sometimes referred to as "The Idol of American Youth."

His singing pardners include the aforementioned Too Slim (nee Fred LaBour), aka "A Righteous Tater." He's the one with the Santa-capped bass.

Rounding out the posse are the yet-to-be mentioned Woody Paul (nee Paul Woodrow Chrisman, aka "The King of the Cowboy Fiddlers") and Joey (Illinois native Joey Miskulin, aka "Joey the Cowpolka King").

Talk about your unlikely saddle tramps: Ranger Doug has a master's degree in literature, Woody Paul a doctorate in nuclear physics, Too Slim a master's degree in wildlife management and Joey a resume that includes a stint as Johnny Cash's executive producer.

And now they're known worldwide as the Grammy-winning hombres who sang "Toy Story 2's" signature anthem, "Woody's Round-Up," and starred in their own Saturday morning CBS series back in the early '90s.

As a child of the '50s, Ranger Doug was weaned on the singing cowboy tradition of the Sons of the Pioneers, from whence sprung Roy Rogers, who moved from B movies to his own '50s TV series.

Around that time, Little Ranger Doug found himself absorbing the basic lifestyle tenets of the singing cowboy on a daily basis.

"It presented an appetizing picture of independence," he says, "where you had to answer to nobody but your own self's code of honor. A kid couldn't understand about cheating wives and broken hearts and barroom brawls and that whole side of country music.

"But riding on the range with your buddies? A kid could understand and fantasize about that."

When Ranger Doug crossed paths with his like-minded partners 32 years ago this November, the fantasy became a professional reality, with no end of the trail in sight.

"So long as we keep the hotel rooms separate," he notes.


Cowboy holiday

What: "Christmas the Cowboy Way" with Riders in the Sky

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, 600 N. East St.

Tickets: $20.20 to $31

Box office: 866-686-9541

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