Rock music has the privilege of being able to easily embrace anything written with notes.
Many times, in fact, traditional or classical music tracks become Rock hits.
Its subject matter is a melodic encyclopedia and a closer search can greatly enrich our knowledge.
Even if this is sought through an allegorical, almost surreal connection between different stories.
Just like a child can change reality with his simplicity and pure imagination.
That’s what happened with 12-year-old Stan Jones when he heard one of Texas‘ most famous legends.
Listening to the story, he created images in his mind, which later became the basis for one of the ageless songs.
“(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend” was first released in 1948 and the following year became a hit on the US charts.
A song that not only had many names such as: “Ghost Riders“, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and “A Cowboy Legend” but was covered by almost all genres of music.
But which stories – legends were the inspiration for one of the most recognizable songs?
The Sawyer legend
Texas is full of lore, legends, and ghost stories.
Such is the case with Ghost Riders, sad but also the most famous legend in all of America.
This legend is real and in fact, it is an absurd and macabre tragedy that took place in Crosby County, Texas.
The legend is known as “Stampede Mesa” and is the story told by a cowboy to Jones, the inspiration for “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky“.
It all started as usual in the fall (1889), where cowboys moved their herd.
The weather was changeable, and the herd was restless throughout the trip.
One night as the cowboys were trying to lead the herd to the slope, where there was water, a strong storm broke out.
They had planned to camp just above the ridge near water.
Sawyer, (farm boss), went out of his way to check out and look for Indians.
Seeing a brand-new house at the top of the hill he was shocked.
He had done this route hundreds of times and had never seen the house, which meant he had to find a new passage for the herd.
This meant countless hours and endless alternative routes, some dangerous for him and his herd.
Sawyer’s rage begins the legend…
Sawyer was so outraged that for no reason he started swearing and cursing everyone and everything.
Waving a blanket in the air, the nervous herd began to disperse.
The horses, with or without riders, began to run furiously, and Sawyer began whipping any animal in front of him.
As the thunderbolts began to flash in the sky, the panicked animals rushed into the farmhouse smashing everything in their path.
No one could hear the cries of the innocent as the animals were in a state of rage.
The loud thunder and the dark sky made the terrified herd continue to run until they reached the rocks, where they found death.
Just before dawn, Sawyer began investigating the devastating damage he had caused.
Beneath the Stampede mesa, there were almost 700 dead. Inanimate bodies of cows and their horses scattered.
Without remorse, he ordered anyone who has left alive to gather the remaining 300 cattle and continue on their way.
When the journey was over, he never worked again, as the people of the area refused to work with him again.
After that, the legend says that Sawyer threw it in the drink, and then he disappeared.
Is the legend becoming a reality?
The next season, another farm boss and his men set off on the same journey, from the same mesa.
The sky was clear, and the weather was perfect. But in the early morning hours, for no apparent reason, the herd bolt.
Again, the herd, the cowboys, and their horses in a state of rage were led to the rocks where they found death.
Unlike Sawyer, this boss sank into guilt and sadness with his way out of the drink again.
And he also disappeared, and no one ever knew anything about him.
Several attempts were made by others to cross the Stampede mesa, with the exact same ending in all cases.
The legend spread throughout the country and everyone believed that there was great evil over the Stampede Mesa.
Since then everyone avoids this particular Texas trail and only lone riders and some curious seekers pass by.
There is a lot of evidence that especially in autumn, screams, and sounds of furious animals are heard, while the images in the sky show angry cowboys with their horses.
This particular legend inspired Jones to write this Western / Country tune.
The legend of the true story of Stampede Mesa has spread throughout the world through music.
Even if you have never heard of the scary legend before, you have probably heard the song.
One of the influences for “Ghost Riders in the Sky” is said to be Joseph B. Geoghegan’s song “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” written in 1867.
However, the first official reference is made in 1863 and is even credited to the American-Irishman Louis Lambert, known as Patrick Gilmore, and the song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home“.
A very popular song during the American Civil War.
In essence, the lyrical part is a combination of two different cultures through their myths.
The legend of the far west meets the myth of the northern peoples of Europe.
This is the legend of “Wild Hunt” but adapted to the Wild West.
The legend of “Wild Hunt”
“Wild Hunt” refers to a group of demon-hunters, accompanied by dogs, who kill or seize whatever they find with destination the land of the dead.
Anyone who saw this vision in his dream, his death was inevitable.
German legends link the leader of the hunt to the god Odin.
Other variations appear on historical and legendary figures such as Theodore the Great, the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag, the Welsh “psychopomp” Gwyn ap Nudd.
With biblical figures such as Herod, Cain, Gabriel or the Devil, or an unknown lost soul or spirit.
Hunters are generally the souls of dead or imaginary dogs, sometimes fairies, Valkyries, or elves.
The myth was also the basis of Halloween and the purpose of this hunt was to maintain the balance of the world.
It generally appears in many cultures, and under different names.
The song also inspired Marvel Comics Western to create the character “Ghost Rider“, which was later renamed “Phantom Rider“.
But the chorus was also used by the Aston Villa Football Club in the 1960s to get the team on the pitch.
In general, its covers and uses are many and they are what make it one of the longest-lived songs in the history of music.