Anderson Design Group Saddles Up With Riders In The Sky
ADG founder Joel Anderson has been a fan of Riders In The Sky for many years. His 32-year-old son Nathan (who heads up the ADG print shop and online store) recalls singing along to the classic cowboy sounds of the Riders in the family car on the way to grade school back in the day. Joel and Riders In The Sky band member Freddy LaBour (Too Slim) have collaborated over the years on several projects from album covers and posters to holiday promo projects for the band. ADG staff artist Aaron Johnson has illustrated some mighty fine cowboy art under Joel's direction. Below are a few examples of the many designs they stretched out of one basic illustration of the band! (Cowboy music has some budget constraints, so you often have to "scrape all the beans you can get out of each can"!)
Recently, Too Slim and Joel got together to figure out the design for the latest CD & LP record project titled: Throw A Saddle On A Star. The concept, expertly rendered by Slim's son George LaBour, was incredibly detailed, as you can see from his sketch:
Joel could discern from George's mini-masterpiece (and from his years of practice interpreting cocktail napkin sketches scrawled by musicians) that the band wanted to do a big sky design that had the boys around a campfire wistfully looking off into the heavens as a shooting star passes by. Joel asked Slim to bring the band to the ADG studio with their stage outfits and instruments so the art team could take reference photos from various angles. Since they had their instruments in hand, they started playing!
Team ADG (along with three generations of Andersons) enjoyed an improvised concert featuring many of the Riders' greatest hits. It was a fun impromptu jam sesh, and Team ADG got lots of great photos for Aaron to use as he started illustrating a new CD cover. Here are a few shots from the session:
At the end of the photo session, the youngest Andersons (Nathan's girls) posed with their cowboy heroes for a photo.
Aaron promptly went to work first sketching and then rendering a design in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Joel adapted Aaron's artwork for the poster, CD, and LP record cover. Here is a sneak peek at some of the steps in the artists' process, along with the finished results:
To celebrate the completion of this fun project and to help the Riders promote their upcoming album release (due in early June), we interviewed Too Slim to get some interesting tidbits.
1. How long have Riders In The Sky been together?
We began this trail drive on November 11, 1977 playing for seven or eight semi-inebriates at a beer joint in the basement of what is now St. Mary’s Bookstore on the corner of Broadway and Lyle. The joint was called Herr Harry’s Franks n' Steins. The “audience" liked it, Herr Harry liked it, and we loved it, and I called Ranger Doug a couple days later and said, “I don’t know what happened back there, but America will pay to see it.” He said, “So should we do it again?” I said, “Yes,” and he started calling other joints in town. Forty-five years, two Grammys, countless TV and radio shows, Opry membership, over six million miles, and nearly 8,000 appearances later, we're still here.
2. How did y'all find each other and become a band?
I moved to Nashville in 1972 to be a songwriter and happened to move next door to Ranger Doug on Wildwood Avenue. I met Woodrow in the audition line for Opryland. Neither of us got the gig. The Ranger was deep into western music in the tradition of the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry. Woody and I caught that fever. Joey, our accordionist, came along ten years later. We found him by the roadside carrying a sign that said “Will Squeeze for Food.”
3. Where did the band's name come from?
I got it from a Sons of the Pioneers album cover which the Ranger lent me. It had a tooled leather cover with Riders In The Sky across the top. It’s, of course, a reference to the great Stan Jones classic "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky."
4. What keeps you going after all these years?
We’re great friends, the laughs keep coming, the music’s endlessly interesting and challenging to play, people keep buying tickets, and there’s a sense of mission—that it’s important to keep this marvelous western music tradition vital and alive.
5. Why did you decide to work with Anderson Design Group? (We are tickled to see our artwork adorning your website's homepage. We had so much fun working on the '40 Years The Cowboy Way' project!)
I’ve been an Anderson Design Group fan since I first saw the Nashville posters. My wife used to give the calendars as Christmas presents. I liked the retro, deco, yet somehow modern, clean look, and the colors. I’ve loved the Anderson take on Riders. You clearly get what we’re up to, and you add to it in a really cool, classy way.
6. Some of our favorite Riders In The Sky songs are: "That's How The Yodel Was Born," "Sidekick Heaven," and all the songs on the Silver Jubilee and Woody's Round Up albums). Do you have any favorite Anderson Design Group posters? (See them all on our site.)
Umm.. so many ADG faves! The Riders posters, of course, particularly the Franklin Theatre Christmas poster. Can’t beat it.
7. What's next for America's favorite cowboys?
We’re just wrapping our new album, number 41, I think, our first in five years. We’ve all written new tunes for it and added in some classic tunes we’ve always wanted to record. It's been really fun to be back in the studio! We’re still on the road, amazingly enough, and working the Opry when we’re in town. I think of it as the “See ‘em While You Still Can Era” of our career, and the folks keep coming out, God bless ‘em.
From all of us at ADG, Congrats, Riders In The Sky! We wish you lots of success and rootin' tootin' good times as you promote your new album. Thanks for inviting us to work with you on it!