“Ghost Writers in the Sky”

Atlanta Constitution editorial room, with copy desk in the background, Nov. 25, 1947. (AP Photo via Poynter)

An old deadline snuck up on him one dark and windy day,

Just like a thousand other times when life got in the way,

When all at once the mighty words as fast as he could think

Went flyin’ past his fevered brain

In letters and dry ink.

Yippie eye yay, yippie eye oh,

The ghost writers in the sky.

Their faces gaunt their eyes were blurred and shirts all soaked with sweat,

They’re writin’ hard to catch the words but they ain’t caught ’em yet

‘Cos they hunt and peck forever on their keys up in the sky,

But ink still comes in metal tins,

And their ribbons runnin’ dry.

Yippie eye yay, yippie eye oh,

Ghost writers in the sky.

This little parody plays off of a good old song by Stan Jones. Published in 1948 and recorded by Jones and his Death Valley Rangers as “Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend,” it was soon made into a hit by Burl Ives in 1949, charted on Billboard for six weeks and peaked at no. 21. The song about the ghostly cowboys working for the devil went on to be recorded by the varied likes of Frankie Laine, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Marty Robbins, Lawrence Welk and Johnny Cash. Give it a search on YouTube and go nuts.

The song’s prolific homophone, Ghost Writers in the Sky turns up in a vast array of titles from the Camilla Randall Mystery series by Anne R. Allen to a Xanth novel by Piers Anthony and an album by Nate Burley.

In my own estimation, Stan Jones had written one of the best ghost stories put to song and it baffles me that it has never caught on as an American Halloween standard.

I don’t yet know it for a fact but I find it hard to believe that I’m the first to try this homophonic spoof on the lyrics. But, for good or ill, there are my first two verses in the attempt and I will likely come back and add to them as the ghostly inspiration leads me.

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