In 1969, Jerry Garcia wanted an outlet to play pedal steel and John “Marmaduke” Dawson was looking to get his songs out to the San Francisco music scene and general American public. This was the evolution of the New Riders of the Purple Sage and they have trotted onward like cowboys on horseback for four decades. Original member and primary songwriter John Dawson rode off into the great beyond during 2009, however the band still remains quite strong. David Nelson (The 1962-1963? Wildwood Boys with members of the Dead, David Nelson Band, and Dead Ringers just to name a few) is a founding member and the lead vocalist.. Jerry Garcia’s 1971 replacement on pedal steel guitar, Buddy Cage, continues to lend his pedal steel talent. (Buddy Cage has performed on 8 gold and platinum albums; "Panama Red" (NRPS), 4 Anne Murray albums, and 3 Dylan albums….damn do I love Cage’s pedal steel on Meet Me in the Morning off Dyaln’s Blood on the Tracks).
The current line-up is a NRPS reincarnation formed in 2006. In addition to Nelson and Cage, the 2012 lineup includes Michael Falzarano (Hot Tuna, Memphis Pilgrims) on guitar and vocals, Ronnie Penque (Ripple, Stir Fried, Ronnie Penque Band) on bass and vocals and Johnny Markowski (Stir Fried) on drums and vocals. Nelson’s impressive pickin on his Fender Telecaster meshes well with Cage’s pedal steel and a strong rhythm section to give the music that splendid country twang I first got to check them out in 2006 at “A Bears Picnic” in Pennsylvania and have seen them there every year since. (I continued to rock the New Riders on many of my outdoor camping and jeep road adventures as well as several river trips out in CO, ID, WY, and UT and it seemed to aptly fit the scene I was experiencing).
On Friday November 1, The New Riders of the Purple Sage brought their blend of country western psychedelic rock to Skippers Smokehouse in Tampa, FL. I have only resided in the Tampa area for about 6 months so this was my maiden voyage to Skippers and it certainly delivered. The Riders mentioned that they had played Skippers before but that it had been way too long ago and that they were happy to be back in Tampa. Skippers Smokehouse provides a nice outdoor venue complete with trees and a view of the night sky. The long time Dead cover band Uncle Johns Band played a nice one set performance to open the evening. These guys do a fine job of recapturing the Grateful Dead experience and just finished a 6 show run of no repeats which was fun for them and their Deadicated fans. You can catch them on almost any Thursdays at Skippers in Tampa or other venues such as The Ringside Café or Ale and Witch in St. Petersburg so check them out. http://unclejohnsband.com/
The stage area at Skippers allows for ample room to dance and the New Riders got things rollin and tumblin with Dylan’s Absolutely Sweet Marie. I also remember hearing NRPS classics Henry, Louisiana Lady, Watcha Gonna Do, and Last Lonely Eagle. Other highlights included the Rolling Stones cover of Dead Flowers and drummer Johnny Markowsi sang out his ode to living the simple life on “Higher” NRPS have a new CD entitled 17 Pine Ave. which has been nominated for a Grammy in the Americana category and the band delivered on a number of the tracks. Check out their merchandise to purchase this CD as well as some legendary performances http://www.nrps.net/musicandvid.html Thanks to UJB, NRPS, and Skippers Smokehouse for a fun night in Tampa!