Just 16 more days until the release of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and the I.T.C.H. headquarters are blazing with excitement. The only way to burn off some of this energy is to play another red-hot Ghost Rider track! And this Tuesday we have a completely unique situation in the history of comics tunes.
On previous Tuesdays we’ve shared songs written about comics characters, songs inspired by comics characters, and songs that coincidently have the same names as comics characters (but are completely unrelated). This week it’s the old switcheroo. Here we have a comic book character inspired by a song!
Yes, you read that right. The song came first, then the character.
One of the biggest country hits of all time, recorded by a kajillion different artists, was written in 1948. Titled “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” it was penned by Stan Jones (not Stan Lee!).
The song was so cool and spooky, with a catchy melody based on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” that it caught on like wildfire. First recorded by Burl Ives, the song inspired a western comic character called (naturally) Ghost Rider.
Whether you call him Night Rider, Phantom Rider, Haunted Horseman, or good old Ghost Rider, he wore a mask and rode a horse – not unlike the spooky riders in the sky in the song.
The original comic was published by Magazine Enterprises in 1949 with art by Dick Ayers. Marvel Comics revived the hooded horseman hero in 1967, again drawn by Darlin’ Dick Ayers.
It wasn’t until 1972 that Ghost Rider traded in his horse for a motorcycle and his head caught fire. (Ouch!)
Today we have a very different character, the skull-headed, cycle-riding, flaming hero from Hell we all know and love. But if it wasn’t for this song, he never would have existed. Wow. That’s heavy.
Versions of this song were recorded by a diverse list of performers including: Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Christopher Lee (no relation), The Sons of the Pioneers, the Norman Luboff Choir, The Ramrods, Frankie Laine, Dick Dale, The Blues Brothers, Deborah Harry, The Ventures, the Dixie Chicks, The Outlaws, Marty Robbins, Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Gene Autry, and Lawrence Welk, to name just a few.
Today I’m sharing the version by Johnny Cash, the Man in Black. Not just because the Ghost Rider’s name was Johnny and he dresses in black, but because Johnny Cash was about the coolest guy on the planet.
Click the link below to listen.
— DJ David B.