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This was written and originally recorded by Stan Jones in 1948. Jones was a forest ranger who wrote songs on the side. After recording his version of the song, artists like Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, Gene Autry and Johnny Cash all recorded it, and the song became a cowboy standard.
The melody is based on the song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
The song presents an image of cowboy hell - riders who are doomed to chase the Devil's cattle for all eternity.
Allen Toussaint - "Southern Nights"
A song he wrote and recorded from "sheer spiritual inspiration," Allen's didn't think "Southern Nights" had hit potential until Glen Campbell took it to #1 two years later.