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Forty four years ago tonight Ranger Doug, Windy Bill Collins and I toted our instruments, a saddle, a live saguaro, and a campfire onto a tiny stage in Herr Harry's Frank n’ Stein basement beer joint and Riders In The Sky was born.

We sang “Back in the Saddle Again,” “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” “Red River Vally,” “Utah Carroll,” “Billy the Kid,” “El Paso,” “Song of the Prairie,” and every other cowboy song we knew in our first shot at western trio harmony.

At first we played to the backs of the ten or twelve semi-inebriates along the bar. I believe it was when Ranger Doug yodeled that they began to turn around. Then, like on The Voice, they all turned around, started paying attention—quiet during the ballads, chuckling during the cutting up. Herr Harry rang the bell at the end of the bar when we hit an especially pleasing chord or riposte.

At the end of the night we collected “the door,” which amounted to $25. Herr Harry made change and handed us each $8. The extra dollar we tore into three pieces. We carried those thirds in our wallets for decades until they finally disintegrated.

Yessir, they turned around to listen, and they’re still turning around and listening 44 years and 7617 appearances later. I always knew from that first night it would work. I could never have imagined it would work for 44 years.

It takes a lot of good people, a lot of hard work, and lot of love to have this much fun for 44 years and counting. I raise my canteen/glass to toast everybody who’s helped us live this astounding dream: agents, managers, engineers, stagehands, sound techs, lighting techs, promoters, caterers, bus mechanics, t-shirt printers, Mercantile sellers, and on and on clear to the western horizon.

I raise my canteen/glass especially to toast the fans who’ve joined us on this trail of sweet music, laughter, and The Cowboy Way. None if it happens without you.

So, that’s 44 in the books. Let’s go for 45. As we’ve said countless times, “C’mon boys! Let’s ride!"

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