Friday Five: Ghosts (Part One)

Ken Morton, Jr. | October 18th, 2013

Ghosts. Phantoms. Shadows. Specters. Apparitions. Banshees. Poltergeists. Around Halloween, these fellows seem to be everywhere from the grocery store to the stereo. As we approach Dia de Muertos, let’s pause and celebrate five of our favorite songs that feature these little creatures, and stay tuned for more ghostly installments.

5. Logan Brill – “No Such Thing as Ghosts”

Engine 145 premiered a song from her brand new and outstanding album, Walking Wires, on the first of this month.  But it’s this amazing track that has me crushing on her. Don’t tell my wife.


4. Marc Cohn – “Ghost Train”

“Some trains they leave in the morning, some leave in the afternoon. Some trains they leave here right on time, and some they just leave too soon, way too soon,” sings Cohn on his self-titled debut.


3. Alison Krauss & Union Station – “Ghost in this House”

It only seems appropriate that a singer with one of the most ethereal voices known to man would sing about haunting a house as “proof of the damage heartbreak does.”


2. Red Sovine – “Phantom 309”

Big Joe saves our hitchhiking protagonist from a freezing cold night walking along the freeway only to find out that it was a ghostly rig that gave him a ride: ten years earlier, Big Joe gave his life to keep his truck from hitting a bus full of kids. Sniff sniff.


1. Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson – “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky”

Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Eddy Arnold, Peggy Lee, and dozens more have recorded this track over the years, but this favorite version comes from a VH1 Storytellers episode.

  1. nm
    October 18, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I can’t quarrel with your list. But for a little light comment on the topic, you have to have Leroy Troy’s “Ghost Chickens in the Sky”:

  2. Janice Brooks
    October 18, 2013 at 9:24 am

    When it comes to Ghost Riders in the Sky my nod goes to Vaughn Monroe.

  3. bob
    October 18, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Like that Brill song. I’ll have to check out the rest of her album.

    While I do like AKUS, my favorite version of the the great Hugh Prestwood song, “Ghost in This House”, is the original by Shenandoah.

  4. Arlene
    October 18, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Not just to annoy Rick, and with apologies to John Steinbeck, here’s Bruce Springsteen doing an acoustic version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

  5. J.R. Journey
    October 18, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Nice list. I’d give an honorable mention to David Allan Coe’s “The Ride”, where the ghost of Hank Williams gives a ride to a would-be musician on his way to Nashville.

  6. TX Music Jim
    October 18, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Another nod to DAC on the live at Billy Bobs CD he preforms “the Ghost of Hank Williams plays your cheatin’ heart again” Also Alan Jacksons “Midnight in Montgomery”.

  7. Arlene
    October 18, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    And continuing with the Hank Williams theme, here’s Darrell Scott performing “Hank Williams’ Ghost”:

  8. Paul W Dennis
    October 19, 2013 at 7:13 am

    A really good list – nice to see recognition for Red Sovine, a greatly underrated singer

    Nice that someone provided the Leroy Troy link as well – too few know about him

    There were two really good versions of “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” released in 1949, both of which were excellent (Vaughn Monroe, Burl Ives). Needless to say, Riders In The Sky also do an excellent version of the song.

    It’s not really about ghosts but I liked Shenandoah’s “Ghost In This House”

  9. Luckyoldsun
    October 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Frankie Laine had an epic–I’d say definitive version of “Ghost Riders” in the ’60s–orchestrated by Johnny Williams (later of “Star Wars” fame) that unfortunately was never a single.

    And Johnny Cash had a great country version of the song off of his “Silver” album that might have been his last solo #1. (I think it hit #2 on Billboard.)

  10. Occasional Hope
    October 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    How can you not include Long Black Veil?

    And I love ‘Ghost in This House’, but it’s a metaphorical ghost not a real one.

  11. Luckyoldsun
    October 19, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Good catch on “Long Black Veil.”
    BTW, On the John Anderson version from his “Wild & Blue” album, Merle Haggard comes in and sings a short snippet. I recall that it was billed on the CD cover as “Special Ghost Appearance [rather than “guest”] by Merle Haggard.

  12. Occasional Hope
    October 19, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    I remember that ;)

  13. TexasVet
    October 19, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Frankie Laine’s version was good but I’d say the definitive version of “Ghost Riders” is this one by The Sons of The Pioneers:

  14. Luckyoldsun
    October 19, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Ok, and here’s the Laine version with the John Williams orchestra.

    And Johnny Cash.
    Maybe someone like Paul or Ken would know if this made it to #1 on any of the country charts that were around back then.

  15. Paul W Dennis
    October 20, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Cash’s version made it to #1 on Cashbox, #2 Billboard and #2 Record World

    Thanks for posting the clips

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