Woody Paul

The National Fiddler Hall of Fame



Paul Chrisman a.k.a. Woody Paul

YouTube - (Link)


"Woody Paul" Chrisman (born August 23, 1949), a.k.a. "King Of The Cowboy Fiddlers", is best known as an accomplished composer, musician and member of the Grammy Award winning Western Music group Riders In The Sky. Woody is also known in the music industry for being proficient and innovative across many musical genres including western, jazz, bluegrass, old-time, and Celtic.

Woody Paul started playing the fiddle around the age of eleven. His father played the banjo and Woody thought it might be fun for he and his father to be able to play a duet together like Paul Warren and Earl Scruggs played every Saturday night on their television show. Some of Woody's early influences included Paul Warren, Benny Martin, Cecil Brower, Kirk McGee, Howdy Forrester, Gordon Terry, Buddy Spicher, Roy Acuff, Tommy Jackson, Charlie Parker and Richard Greene. As a teenager, Woody lived close to Sam and Kirk McGee and would often ride to the Grand Ole Opry with them where he was taught fiddle tunes backstage by legendary fiddlers and Grand Ole Opry stars such as Roy Acuff and Howdy Forrester. Acuff was impressed with Woody's ability to play the fiddle, particularly the complex tunes that Howdy Forrester was known for playing so well. Upon graduation from High School in 1967, Roy Acuff gave Woody a fiddle, at which time Woody had Acuff scratch his autograph on the back of the instrument. Woody still has and often plays that particular fiddle to this very day.

Woody Paul has participated in many fiddle competitions over the years with a particularly famous contest taking place in 1975 in Smithville, Tennessee. For the championship title, Woody, the Junior division winner was paired against the Senior division winner, legendary southern old time fiddler Fraser Moss. The famous face-off was featured in a popular Blaine Dunlap PBS Documentary, Showdown at the Hoedown, which became the first folklore documentary to be nationally broadcast by PBS.

In high school, Woody attended the prestigious Battleground Academy in Franklin, Tennessee. After graduation Woody attended Vanderbilt University where he received his B.S. in Physics. He later attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Plasma Physics. After returning to Nashville in 1976, he toured and played briefly with Loggins and Messina, and for a slightly longer time with Wilma Lee Cooper and the Clinch Mountain Clan, before joining Riders in The Sky in August of 1978. As legend would have it, Ranger Doug and Too Slim had formed the band a few months earlier and had just lost a member, Woody approached the two and told them "you need me". Obviously they agreed, and the three have now played and toured together for over 34 years.

During that time, Riders In The Sky has managed to remain one of the most popular Western music groups in the industry and along the way have traveled over four million miles, performed together over 6000 times, played in front of more than 7,000 million fans, had their own Saturday morning network television series, won two Grammy Awards and appeared with many prestigious symphonies including the Boston Pops and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Riders have also received countless honors from such prestigious institutions as the Western Music Association's Hall Of Fame, the WMA, the Academy Of Western Artists, The Country Music Foundation and The National Cowboy Hall Of Fame. Riders In The Sky have also been members of The Grand Ole Opry for over thirty years.

Woody Paul Chrisman is accomplished as a composer as well, and has participated in two Grammy Award winning albums. The song he is probably best known for among his fans is The Arms Of My Love. Another popular tune, Blue Bonnet Lady was part of the hit Broadway production The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. Other popular songs that Woody has composed or co-written include Big High Wire Hop, Monsters Jubilee, Cowboy Song, Cowboy Of The Highway, Compadres In The Old Sierra Madres, Desperado Trail, Utah Trail and West Texas Cowboy.

Today, Woody Paul continues to play and tour with Riders In The Sky, as well as continue his never ending quest to discover fiddle sounds which are original, relevant, appropriate, and grounded in a desire to continually forge his own unique style and character.

Woody Paul Chrisman was inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame in 2012.

Woody Paul Hall of Fame Introduction


Cusic, Don. It's the Cowboy Way!: The Amazing True Adventures of Riders in the Sky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2003. Print.

Woody Paul - King Of The Cowboy Fiddlers. Dir. Lisa LaFortune. Perf. Woody Paul Chrisman, Douglas B. Green, Fred LaBour, Joey Miskulin. National Fiddler Hall Of Fame, Apr. 2012. Web.