Riders in the Sky Plot 40th Anniversary Album, 2018 Tour

Band's founding members, Ranger Doug and Too Slim, first played together in Nashville in November 1977

Grand Ole Opry members Riders in the Sky will continue their 40th anniversary celebration with a new album and tour in the new year. Credit: Rick Diamond/Getty Images

While using the term "country and western" to describe much of contemporary country music is woefully outdated, there remains a legendary exception to that rule: Riders in the Sky. The quartet, who celebrated 40 years of performing together at a special performance in Nashville, has been on what they term "the Never-Ending Trail Drive," taking their patented blend of cowboy culture, humor and extraordinary musicianship around the world since the group's first show 40 years ago in November. Now, with nearly 7,200 behind them, the longtime Grand Ole Opry members – and former hosts of their own public radio series and a Saturday morning kid's show on CBS – collectively gaze toward the horizon and next year's impending release of new music: 40 Years The Cowboy Way, a 15-track collection on the group's Riders Radio Records. The LP will be the group's 41st.

At the time of that first gig in 1977, at Nashville's Herr Harry's Frank N Steins, a fabled rathskeller below what is now a Catholic bookstore, the colorful western-attired group's original members were Ranger Doug Green (then "Deputy Doug") and Fred "Too Slim" LaBour along with Windy Bill Collins. Green and LaBour remain along with current members Paul "Woody Paul" Chrisman and Joseph Miskulin, a/k/a Joey the Cow-Polka King, who started performing with them in the late-Eighties. Ranger Doug is also a member of Western Swing band the Time Jumpers, featuring Vince Gill. 

In a statement on the group's upcoming album and tour, bass player "Too Slim" invokes an unlikely comparison to the Rolling Stones, saying, "As we head out on our 40th Anniversary Tour, it feels like we're getting into Mick and Keith territory; a celebration of 40 years of laughing, singing, touring and living life 'The Cowboy Way.' But any cowpoke will tell you, it's not about looking back, it's about looking ahead and wondering what's over that next rise, that next mountain range, and we're looking ahead with… new music, a new T-shirt, and, I promise, a new joke. We're ready to hit the trail and I believe folks will discover that there is truly 'still a little snap in the old soup bone!'"

In addition to 40 Years The Cowboy Way, out early in 2018, the group will partner in several events to celebrate entering their fifth decade, with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Grand Ole Opry, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and more. Tour dates and more information are available at Riders in the Sky website.

40 Years The Cowboy Way track listing:

"Cimarron"
"Old New Mexico"
"I've Cooked Everything"
"Brazos River"
"Mule Train"
"Old Showboat"
"Big Iron"
"Clarinet Polka"
"I've Got No Use for the Women"
"The Blue Juniata"
"Buffalo Gals/Bear Creek Hop"
"We're Burning Moonlight"
"Mollie Darling"
"Pigeon on the Gatepost/The Coleraine Jig"
"Press Along to the Big Corral"