A Rock and Roll First!
When I think of the group called the Ramrods, the group behind the rousing instrumental “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky”, I conjure up an image of a bunch of wild teens fresh out of the garage!
The Ramrods formed way back in 1956, the creation of brother an sister Richard and Claire Litke out of Connecticut who would team up with cousin Gene Moore on guitar and Vinny Lee playing lead guitar. The driving force behind the group Claire who composed and arranged songs and standing out from the pack was one of the first rock female drummers! Claire had actually recorded prior to going into the studio with her group.
It is likely that she was backed by members of the Ramrods on some of her solo efforts but there were no “Ramrods” until 1960 when they singed on with Amy Records.
The group managed to stay together until 1963 after only enjoying the lone chart success of Ghost Riders which peaked at number 30. They would record two additional singles along the way and go through several personnel changes. Claire would use the last name of “Lane” in place of Litke but brother Richard remained Litke.
Another group out of Boston was known as the “Rockin’ Ramrods” also performed as the “Ramrods” but there were no connections between the two groups. (reference music historian Fred Clemens)
One member, Bernie Moore, would depart the Ramrods to tour with Mantovani and would be replaced by guitarist Russ Cook. When Claire decided to go solo she would perform as a singer and guitarist. The group would morph into the “Russ Cook Combo”.
In 1963, Claire would go back to the well recording “El Diablo” a song which was composed by Stan Jones, the guy who gave us “(Ghost Riders) In the Sky” first made popular as a vocal in 1949 by band leader Vaughn Monroe released as “Riders In the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)”.
The song was a monster success topping the nation’s charts at number 1 for 12 straight weeks and would go to number 2 on the country charts, Monroe’s only appearance there.
Jones composed the song while working for the national parks stationed in Death Valley which no doubt influenced his haunting lyrics. Jones would compose many western themed songs and composed for the motion pictures “The Searchers” and “Rio Grande”. He also wrote for Disney and composed the theme song “Cheyenne” for the television series.
Ramrods/Claire Lane Discography
45 – Jan-Et 62382 – I Love You So/All By Myself – (by Claire Lane) – 1959
45 – Dell Star 128 – An Orphan’s Christmas/The Boy Next Door – (by Claire Lane) – December, 1959
45 – Dell Star 62382 – All By Myself/I Love You So – January, 1960
45 – Amy 817 – Lock Lomond Rock/Take Me Back To Boots and Saddle – March, 1961
45 – Amy 846 – War Cry/Boing I – July, 1962
45 – Mala 453 – Frankie and Johnny/Curiously – July, 1962
45 – Amy 813 – (Ghost) Riders In the Sky/Zig Zag – December, 1960 Charted Number 30 Hot 100
45 – Jamie 45-904 – Run Run Run Away/I Dig That Guy – January, 1963
45 – Petal P-1015 – Frankie and Johnny/El Diablo – June, 1963
45 – Petal 1020 – Curiosity/Isn’t It a Shame – August, 1963
45 – Al’s Creation Records – A Talking Christmas Tree/Reflections – year unknown
LP – Flora 1031 – Claire Lane – Drummer Girl Sings