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In 1961, Lawrence Welk and his Orchestra, of all people*, recorded a version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" featuring guitar and some percussion instrument which I've never seen before.

It looks like the cat is sending a telegraph. You can watch it here.

What in the world is it, and how often has such an instrument been used?

  • As was Welk, Louis L'Amour (prolific writer of Western novels) was a North Dakotan, and Teddy Roosevelt cowboyed on a North Dakota ranch, so maybe it's not as macabre as it initially seems that Welk would record a Western song.
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The percussion instruments are castanets mounted onto a frame ("machine castanets") which makes them easier to play.
Castanets held in the hand are one of the standard instruments in Spanish flamenco music. They also belong to the standard percussion instruments used in orchestras, particularly for anything with a Spanish flair, but also as an effect.

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