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New Riders Of The Purple Sage

For most of the early '70s, the New Riders of the Purple Sage™ (yes, the name is trademark-protected) were the successful offshoots of the Grateful Dead. Although they never remotely approached the success or longevity of the Dead, they attracted a considerable audience through their association with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart, whose fans couldn't be satisfied with only the Dead's releases -- the New Riders never reached much beyond that audience, but the Deadheads loved them as substitutes (along with Garcia's periodic solo projects) for the real article. Their initial sound was a kind of country-acid rock, somewhat twangier than the Dead's usual work and without the Dead's successful forays into experimental jams, but they later acquitted themselves as straight country-rockers.

Essentially, the New Riders of the Purple Sage (their name derives from an old country outfit, Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage, who in turn took the name from an old Western novel) were initially formed as a vehicle for Garcia, Lesh, and Hart to indulge their tastes for country music beyond the albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. Their original lineup at early performances consisted of Garcia on pedal steel, Lesh on bass, John Dawson (born 1945) on rhythm guitars and vocals, sometime Dead contributor-member David Nelson on lead guitars, mandolin, and vocals, and Mickey Hart on drums. The New Riders quickly evolved into more of a free-standing unit, with Dave Torbert succeeding Lesh, and ex-Jefferson Airplane member Spencer Dryden on the drums, succeeding Hart. They also developed an identity of their own through Dawson's songwriting, which had an appealing command of melody and beat.

The group was a little shaky as a country-rock outfit, without the strengths of soulfulness or strong in-house songwriting of, say, Poco or the Burrito Brothers, but their association with Garcia and the Dead (Lesh co-produced one album) gave them a significant leg up in terms of publicity and finding an audience. High school and college kids who'd scarcely heard of Gram Parsons or Jim Messina but owned more than one Dead album, were likely in those days to own, or have a friend who owned, at least one New Riders album. That translated into many thousands of sales of the self-titled first album, which proved an apt and pleasing companion to Workingman's Dead and American Beauty with its mix of country and psychedelic sounds. By the second album, Buddy Cage had come in on pedal steel, replacing Garcia, and their sound had firmed up, helped by the fact that Dawson and Torbert were good songwriters.

Powerglide, their second album, proved that they had what it took to stand separate from the Dead, even though Garcia and Bill Kreutzmann played on a handful of cuts. The group continued to attract a following through the early and mid-'70s, mixing country-rock and folk sounds (Buffy St. Marie was a guest vocalist on the 1974 hit album The Adventures of Panama Red) and attracting the mellower component of recreational drug users. By the end of the decade, following a label change from Columbia to MCA, it seemed as though they were running out of steam and originality, however, and the growth in popularity of punk, disco, and power pop made them seem like an anachronism, along with most other country-rock outfits of the era. Ex-Byrd Skip Battin joined in 1975, replacing Torbert; Dryden gave up playing in 1978 to assume management of the band, and by 1981, Nelson was gone.

The New Riders essentially disbanded in 1982, although the name was later picked up by a new lineup built around Gary Vogensen (guitar) and Rusty Gautier (bass). Nelson subsequently played with the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and assumed the de facto role of group archivist, supervising the release of unissued tapes by the band through the Relix label. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

1972 or 71 Central Park NY. Free sunshine. 3 days in Bellevue afterwards
Emerge from the coma Frank.
Still touring Frank check em out.
NewRiders were a fun group!! They had a great sound.
One of the most underrated bands of their time
Donnie + Marie, that was a bad thing! Go away little girl......
riphillips3
WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE SAID NRPS'
Every good thing,and every bad thing,comes to an end. NRPS was a GREAT thing, To bad it had to end. We could use dem good o'le boys today.
rickbriggs44
Ghost Train Blues: What a driving 10 minutes!
dkwilkie8
Brings back memories of my mis spent youth in Colorado
1978 Commack Arena - Robert Hunter Band opened, followed by NRPS, then The Jerry Garcia Band. The show ended at 5:00AM!!!
stu_nichols
SUNY Albany, NY. 73, 74 maybe. Sometime around then. Still enjoy their music.
1970 Fillmore East
geflorax
Steel Pier 1974, David Bromberg opened was brought up to close with seven fiddles on stage! They just don't make them like that any more.
Boy this brings back some great memories!!!!
saw them play at the Ranch at Slab City
dmdbrew2
After hitching from New Hampshire to Oregon 16 times from 1972-1976 and driving another 15 times these songs take me back with a smile...and a few gaps in memory as well..alas at the age of 59 a few gaps are allowable... l o n g strange trip! long beats the alternative. . . s o many left along the way too early!!! love what you have...
these guys are crazy good cuz
First saw the Riders in 1970 at the Fillmore with Jerry on the pedal steel and Phil popping in for fun. Willie and the Hand Jive had the whole place bouncing with the entire crowd performing an unrehearsed, synchronized hand jive . They could rock, make you sad, make you laugh, the perfect mood setters for the Dead.
Pandora..I guess the next song coming up will be Border Radio
63bronxb
Has anybody been listening to their new stuff?
First saw NRPS in early to mid seventies opening for the Dead. I followed the Dead down from Upstate or might've been Southern Mass, like maybe Springfield. There's no such thing as eight way windowpain. One hit was one dose. Owsley, the inventor of the wall of sound, made pills of LSD featuring Mr. Natural on the front. Owsley made a new batch every week and the new batch featured a new color in an attempt to thwart counterfeiti n g . The new color was announced at the beginning of the concerts..T
63bronxb
I do not think there is any better music to drive a car too or drink a beer. Cheers my New Riders brothers.
Anybody got any 8 way window payne?
They take me back to my teenage years
knckeith
I saw the NRPS perform at the University of Alaska Fairbanks summer of 1976. Jerry and Bob came along. What a great show. Love Pandora
!! NRPS !! I've always said me and my era was one for a title for a novel. Lost somewhere between Cambodia and Computers We had the rock & role, the pot, and the country all at the same time. All of it is fantastic. Live on and be happy. The music just isn't there anymore.
Tony
63bronxb
Live at Veneta 1972 this my friends is a fine disc
63bronxb
Today's music really misses the boat. NRPS ia pure joy and freedom to the ears!
Thank you, Pandora, for making a work day so much easier to process - and for keeping NRPS et al alive...

Also, in this instance, the name comes from a wonderful, wonderful novel by Zane Grey i.e. The Riders of the Purple Sage...
rbriggs93
NRPS were great.
I miss Jerry :(
Did you all see Justin Beiber on the Today Show, LOL, just kidding....r o l l on my fellow Heads, what has happened to the music industry?
63bronxb
archive.org free New Riders and Greatful Dead shows
My two biggest misses. # 1 The Dead W/ N.R.P.S..#2 SKYNERD W/ The Outlaws. At the Paramount Theater, The City Of Roses. Somebody help me. Are alot of Weirs Signature songs written with a member of N.R.P.S By the way i saw Outlaws 3 times. Tightest Guitar Army ever seen.
Kozmic Cowboy nostalgia... . . . I can play and listen to this music for hours on end
VIVA!! Armadillo World Headquarters ! ! !
skyhawk637
This should not have come up on my Avenged Sevenfold channel.
63bronxb
17 Pine Ave. rocks to the highest levels!!!
Thank you Timber Wolf for the Peter Rowan reference. I was amazed he didn't even make the similar bands file. I agree the bio was kind of, well, incomplete.

Love the music though, and I am not a Grateful Dead fan.
cozmiccowgir l 4 8
How about their song Henry?
63bronxb
No doubt they are cool. Just bought their new album. Can't wait to hear it
mdruark
This is why I love Pandora - never heard of the New Riders, but now they are part of the permanent rotation.
timberwolves 7
What a misleading bio - I know they shared a lot of stages with the Dead, but: I was never a Deadhead but liked the Riders for their similarity to the Burritos, Poco, Chris Hillman, Peter Rowan...
joel_rubin3
Also to mention that the New Riders were for years, the Dead's opening act. My first Dead show, Fillmore East '71 with the New Ridewrs opening
rpt44
Saw NRPS a couple of weeks ago at a small bar near Ohio State. Rare opportunity to stand close and watch some true legends excel at a craft they have perfected. These guys know how to rock.
kgrizz
Drove from Dayton OH to San Diego in 1975 and just about wore out Panama Red on the way.
Lonesome L.A. Cowboy is a great song. Bought Panama Red when it came out. I wore out a couple of 8 track tapes.
bfriedman37
When the NRPS first played before The Grateful Dead at the Fillmore East in the spring of nineteen hundred and'70, at MIDNIGHT, jerry played steel guitar and billy k. played drums for the Band. They would open up the show with a little ACOUSTIC SET. It would be daybreak on the land when it was all done!!!
heard this as a kid a long time ago and now again and wondered many times about it.L.A. cowboy too.
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