New Riders of the Purple Sage coming to Stanhope House

| 23 Feb 2012 | 12:16

    STANHOPE — In the summer of 1969, John Dawson was looking to showcase his songs while Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead was looking to practice his brand new pedal steel guitar. The two played in coffeehouses and small clubs initially, and the music they made became the nucleus for a band — the New Riders of the Purple Sage. That same year, David Nelson, expert in both country and rock guitar, joined the group on electric lead guitar. Filling out the rhythm section in those early days were Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and engineer Bob Matthews on bass, who was later replaced by Phil Lesh. In 1970, Dave Torbert took over on bass and the New Riders played every chance they got. Soon enough, smoky clubs all over the San Francisco bay area were filling up with whooping, foot-stomping crowds as their music got tighter and more dynamic. They began to tour extensively with the Dead, and in December of 1970, Spencer Dryden, who had previously showed his impeccable drumming style with the Jefferson Airplane, had stepped in on drums. Over 40 years later, the band is still going strong, albeit with a lineup that has evolved. The musically history-laden group brings its still hugely popular sound to The Stanhope House on Saturday night, March 3. History tells us that one of the band’s many gigs included the now infamous Trans-Canadian Festival Express with The Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, and other American and Canadian artists like Ian and Sylvia, who had with them a brilliant, innovative pedal steel player named Buddy Cage. When Garcia’s busy schedule made it increasingly difficult for him to play with the New Riders, the talented Cage was the perfect choice to fill the pedal steel spot. With the addition of Cage, the New Riders emerged as a fully independent unit. Today’s New Riders not only includes Cage, but also David Nelson, as well as Michael Falzarano, Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski. For tickets and further information about the Stanhope House, go to or call 973-347-7777.