Rock Flashback: New Riders of the Purple Sage

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Detail From the Cover of "The Adventures of Panama Red"

Detail From the Cover of “The Adventures of Panama Red”

If the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Grateful Dead[/lastfm] were a tree, its offshoots would be many. One that’s occasionally overlooked is [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]New Riders of the Purple Sage[/lastfm].

The New Riders originally featured Dead members [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jerry Garcia[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Phil Lesh[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Mickey Hart[/lastfm]. The group was intended as an outlet for the trio’s interest in country rock. The other members in the band’s original lineup, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]David Nelson[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]John Dawson[/lastfm], were old San Francisco friends of the Dead.

Dawson and Nelson would remain constants in the band for years to come; the lineup around them would shift quite a bit, although drummer [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Spencer Dryden[/lastfm], formerly of the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jefferson Airplane[/lastfm], was a member for 10 years.

The New Riders’ first album was released in 1971. The band frequently opened for the Dead, and in December 1971, played a live radio concert with the Dead broadcast over WNEW-FM. But it is the New Riders’ third album for which they are best known. Although their second album, Powerglide, charted higher, The Adventures of Panama Red was their best seller — and if you know a single New Riders song, it’s probably “Panama Red.”

We heard “Glendale Train” from the band’s debut album on the radio the other day — the only NRPS album to feature Jerry Garcia in a starring role — and we like it.


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