If you are of a certain generation, say one with the word “boom” often attached, you may fondly remember playing cowboys and Indians when Roy Rogers was an icon and scratchy music came from a large, round, black vinyl disk.
The 1930s and early ‘40s were the glory days of cowboy music, with Gene Autry warbling “Back in the Saddle Again,” Roy Rogers crooning “Happy Trails” and Bob Wills, “The King of Western Swing,” singing — and drinking — his way across America with the Texas Playboys.
These cowboy singers were a long way from the range. Their “dude” duds included oversized 10-gallon hats, sheepskin chaps and cowboy boots that had never kicked up dust or heeled a horse in the ribs.
By the mid ‘50s these singers gave way to rock and roll and country western music, and cowboy singers became a relic of the past, their albums stashed in the attic with the hula hoops and poodle skirts.
Almost. For the last three decades the uniquely American, high and lonesome sound of cowboy music has been kept alive by a group of men who are not afraid to dress like refugees from the Village People.
They may not be the only musicians still performing cowboy music, but they are certainly the hardest-working.
In a career that has spanned three decades, Riders in the Sky have performed their repertoire of classic songs more than 5,000 times and traveled more than 3 million miles. They have criss-crossed the country by bus so many times their road map looks like an Etch-a-Sketch gone wild.
Jan. 19 Riders in the Sky pulls into Bremerton for a concert at the Admiral Theatre. This is a long-awaited encore to their sold-out show at the theater last year.
Their stage presence is silly enough to appeal to youngsters, with colorful outfits decorated like something from a circus, but they are also solid musicians. They recreate the songs from the Golden Age of Cowboy Singers as if they were written yesterday, and they hadn’t sung them a million times.
Their music also appeals to people who remember dancing Western swing style to the original music, cutting a rug on a sawdust covered dance floor.
The group took a new direction — and gained a new audience — in 1999 when it was featured on the soundtrack for the wildly popular Walt Disney/Pixar animated film “Toy Story 2.” The group won a Grammy that year for “Woody’s Roundup featuring Riders in the Sky,” a companion album to the soundtrack.
The Riders won another Grammy in 2003 for “Monster’s Inc. — Scream Factory Favorites,” which was another animated film tie-in.
In 2002 they composed the original score to Pixar’s Academy Award-winning short, and they have since been involved in other animation projects, providing music and even animated versions of themselves.
They have also recorded more than two dozen albums. No word on if those recordings are available on scratchy vinyl.
Riders in the Sky appear 7 p.m. Jan. 19, Admiral Theatre, 515 Pacific Ave., Bremerton. Tickets are $25 main floor and loge, $18 balcony. All seats reserved. Tickets are available at the box office or by phone at (360) 373-6743.