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New Riders of the Purple Sage to rock Honokaa


The ultimate psychedelic cowboy band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, takes the stage Saturday night at Honokaa People’s Theatre.

Doors open at 7 p.m. The show starts at 8. Tickets are $40 general, $55 gold circle. For information, call 896-4845.

The band started in San Francisco in 1969 when John “Marmaduke” Dawson was looking for a vehicle to showcase his songs and Jerry Garcia was looking to play his brand-new pedal steel guitar. After playing as a duo in Bay Area coffeehouses, NRPS became a band with the addition of country-rock guitarist David Nelson, plus Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and engineer Bob Matthews on bass. Matthews was soon replaced by Dead bassist Phil Lesh.

In 1970, Dave Torbert became the bassist and former Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden joined, as well.

In 1971, talented pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage, who’d played with Ian and Sylvia and Anne Murray, took over for Garcia, whose busy schedule made it increasingly difficult to play with the New Riders.

Also in 1971, the band released its first, self-titled album, with Garcia on pedal steel and banjo, and garnered a following — mostly as an opening act for the Dead and others — but it was 1973’s “The Adventures of Panama Red” that put the band into the mainstream consciousness with heavy radio airplay for the songs “Panama Red” and “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy.”

Torbert and Dryden have both died and Dawson passed away in 2009 due to ongoing health problems, but Dawson’s songs and musical legacy live on. The current lineup, which includes Nelson and Cage, vows to keep the NRPS spirit and tunes alive by taking them to fans everywhere. The band teamed up with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and released its first CD in two decades to rave reviews, “Where I Come From.”

NRPS is on a four-island tour supporting its latest release “17 Pine Avenue.” Longtime fans of the band will find the music familiar, while those discovering NRPS will be excited by the sweet country harmonies mixed with pulsing rock rhythms.

 

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