American songwriter (1914-1963). Born and raised in Douglas, Arizona, he grew up surrounded by the stereotypes of the Wild West -- cattle herds, cowboys, desert vistas, and the whole lot. As a boy, he was known as a talented teller of ghost stories, easily capable of frightening his schoolmates with tales of spooks, horrors, and things that go bump in the night. But one of the more significant episodes of his life stemmed from him getting scared by a ghost story. When he was 12, he went riding with an old cowboy to check over his spread. As an ominous thunderhead loomed on the horizon, the cowboy warned Stan to watch out for the spectral horsemen of the storm, chasing eternally after a stampeding herd of phantom cattle. He warned Stan that if he wasn't careful, he'd end up riding alongside the ghostly cattlemen forever, trying to round up the devil's herd. Terrified, Stan took off for the relative safety of his home...

Jones moved to California to go to college. From there, he traveled all over the West, working in a copper mine in Jerome, Arizona, as a snowplow driver, logger, and firefighter in the Pacific Northwest, and as a field director for the American Red Cross in Bend, Oregon, during World War II. After he joined the National Park Service, he and his wife Olive got transferred to Death Valley, where their only entertainments consisted of enjoying the desert scenery and, for Stan, writing songs. One of them, recalling the story that had terrified him when he was a boy, was the mournful, haunting "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

Stan was made the Park Service's representative for film crews making Westerns in Death Valley, and he enjoyed entertaining the crews after filming was over for the day with songs and stories. The Hollywood crews encouraged him to get a publisher for his music in Los Angeles. "Ghost Riders" was originally recorded by Burl Ives, but a singer named Vaughn Monroe recorded another version and released it before Ives' version. The song became one of Monroe's biggest hits, and many other versions of the song were recorded.

Jones was introduced to director John Ford, who asked Jones to write the scores for films like "Wagonmaster," "Rio Grande," and "The Searchers." As more film work came in, Jones quit his job with the Park Service and moved back to California. He did lots of work for Disney, including writing the music and singing some of the songs for the "Spin and Marty" series. He also helped create the "Sheriff of Cochise" series, which he also co-wrote and co-starred in. And of course, he kept writing songs, including "Saddle Up," "Lilies Grow High," "Cowpoke," "Song of the Trail," and the theme song for "Cheyenne."

Jones is buried in Douglas, Arizona, where he was born. Whether he's got a place on that eternal roundup, racing the storm and the stampede, I don't know...

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