Christmas the Cowboy Way

Riders In the Sky will perform at Door Community Auditorium on Nov. 29. Submitted photo.

Door County is about to get a lesson in how to celebrate Christmas the cowboy way with the Thanksgiving weekend performance of American Western music and comedy from the group Riders In the Sky.

The band, whose talents will be familiar to anyone who has heard “Woody’s Roundup” in Toy Story 2, will bring its cowboy charm, quick wit and occasional yodel to the Door Community Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 29.

Riders In the Sky pays tribute to American Western music and its themes of the great outdoors and independent spirit of the cowboy with great harmonies, according to member Doug Green (or as he’s better known, Ranger Doug). They also infuse wacky Western wit and down-home charm into their unforgettable performances.

“I often compare it to the Sons of the Pioneers meets Monty Python,” Ranger Doug said. “Classic and original Western music just like the country’s glory days of the singing cowboy movies. And a lot of humor.”

Since it was founded in 1977, the Nashville-based band has held onto its original members: Ranger Doug (guitar, lead/baritone vocals), Too Slim (bass), Woody Paul (fiddler, lead/tenor vocals) and Joey the Cowpolka King (accordion).

Together, these four men have brought Western music to the ears of thousands through 6,200 live performances, 300 national television appearances, 200 public radio shows, 700 Grand Ole Opry appearances, three television series, an original radio show, and 35 albums. They have also won two Grammy Awards and have written and performed music in major motion pictures.

The performance at DCA will include a mix of holiday classics, Riders In the Sky originals (including “Riding Home On Christmas Eve,” “Deck The Bunkhouse Walls,” and “The Last Christmas Medley You’ll Ever Need To Hear”), cowboy humor and quick wit, along with what Ranger Doug calls “fabulous Western outfits that appear to have come out of a 1948 movie.”

The band members are comfortable enough with their 37 years together that shows are not planned in advance but are sure to please, nonetheless.

“We don’t have a set show, we just go with what we feel like doing,” Ranger Doug said.

Sometimes that involves “playing” their faces, though anyone who hasn’t seen one of their shows will be hard-pressed to find out what that means from any of the men in the group.

“You’d have to see it,” Ranger Doug said.

Though American Western music infrequently finds itself on the radio, especially in the cold depths of the Midwest, Ranger Doug has tracked the group’s performances over the decades and Wisconsin happens to be in the top 10 for most performances.

He chalks it up to Wisconsinites’ appreciation for music that stretches beyond the state’s borders – an appreciation he hopes all in the audience will walk away with after the show.

“I would hope they would say, ‘Well here’s a valuable piece of the American musical quilt,’” Ranger Doug said. “The songs of the cowboy and the West are as vital as any other kind of minority musical style, like bluegrass or blues or all the wide spectacle of American music that you don’t hear on the radio.”

Riders in the Sky will perform at DCA, 3926 Hwy. 42 in Fish Creek, on Saturday, Nov. 29 at 7 pm. Tickets for the concert range from $22 to $38. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made through the DCA box office, 3926 Hwy. 42 in Fish Creek. The box office is open Monday-Friday, 12 – 5pm. Tickets can be purchased in person, on the phone at 920.868.2728, or online at