Last week on Two for Tuesday, I featured Vaughan Monroe, and one of the songs I chose was his recording of “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky.” JoAnna said it sounded familiar, and wanted to know if anyone else had done it. Before I could answer, Kip said that there were “about a million” covers of the song and suggested that maybe I could do a Battle of the Bands featuring it.
I did some research, and while “about a million” is overstating the case a little bit, it has been done a lot since actor/singer Stan Jones wrote and recorded it in 1948. Wikipedia says that over fifty performers have covered the song, a number of which have charted. A YouTube user by the name of Lubomir Šebesta has built a single video of all the recorded versions he found on YouTube that’s almost three hours long. At an average length of three minutes, that’s close to sixty versions. Some are instrumental, some are sung by women, some by choruses…
I felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew. So, I decided to “divide and conquer”: I’ll do at least two battles, one vocal, one instrumental, of this classic song. For this battle, I chose male singers. Now, you might wonder, “what about Johnny Cash?” His cover might be one of the more famous ones: he recorded it in 1979 and performed it on The Muppet Show later that year. I knew if I chose him as one of the contestants, whoever ran against him would be shut out, and I didn’t want that to happen, so I passed on him. Instead, I chose two versions that I thought were fairly equal for this battle. Your job is to listen to both versions and choose which you like better.
CONTESTANT #1: Burl Ives Burl’s cover, from 1949, was the first one recorded after Stan Jones’s original version. It was on the charts for six weeks, peaking at #21.
CONTESTANT #2: Frank Ifield British-born Australian cowboy singer Frank Ifield is best-known to us Yanks for his song “I Remember You,” and is also famous for being part of the package deal that Parlophone Records in the UK struck with Vee Jay Records in the US that also sent The Beatles. His version appeared on his 1963 UK album Born Free.
Okay, so you know the drill: Listen to both versions, decide which of them you like the best, and tell me which and why in the comments below. Then, go visit my buddy Stephen T. McCarthy, where you’ll find the current list of BotB candidates in the right-hand column (a ways down), and go visit those blogs and vote in their Battles. I’ll announce the results of this battle next Friday, December 8, so be sure and get your vote in by then.
The lines are now open. Good luck to Burl and Frank!