Riders In The Sky and Wilford Brimley
Home On The Range
Riders Radio Records
Most folks know him from a slew of westerns, the Waltons TV series, or as one of the geezers in the 1985 film, Cocoon. Or maybe from his oatmeal or diabetes commercials. But few would realize that Wilford Brimley, 78, can hold his own on a stage singing American standards. Especially when backed by one of the world’s foremost cowboy bands, Riders In The Sky. To be sure, Home On The Range is not Brimley’s first foray into the recording studio. There was the 1999 release All My Friends Are Cowboys with Johnny Cash, Roy Rogers, Don Edwards, and Waddie Mitchell, plus two solo releases.
These two icons of Western entertainment merged trails after the Riders agreed to play Brimley’s annual Hands Across The Saddle benefit in Greybull, Wyo., in 2012. Ranger Doug Green asked Wilford to join them on two songs and Brimley brought the house down.
“I’ve been on the road a long time,” said Polka Hall of Fame member Joey Miskulin, “and there aren’t that many magic moments. THAT was a magic moment.”
An album was suggested, agreed upon, and produced. The result is a very pleasant mix of Western swing, cowboy songs, and American classics branded by Brimley’s mellow vocal stylings and corralled by the Riders’ exquisite harmony singing and masterful instrumentation.
Green says of Brimley: “He is a real stylist—he’s not a trained voice—it’s a home-grown folk voice. But he is a deep lover of jazz. As an actor he knows phrasing backwards and forwards so he really pulls all of the emotions possible out of a piece of music.”
The Nashville recording sessions went well. Almost too well. The camaraderie between them often brought work to a standstill as Wilford regaled all with big windies about his days making movies.
“It was a marvelous experience,” Ranger Doug relates. “We were all just grinning ear to ear the whole breadth of the recording session. He’s one of those guys that you just like. He’s 100 percent Wilford!”
After 35 years together and playing over 6,400 live performances The Riders In The Sky are still as solid as ever. Home On The Range will satisfy die-hard fans with that classic “Riders sound” while generating a few smiles of delight for those unfamiliar with Brimley’s vocal chops.