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Sunday, June 21, 2015

NRPS (formerly The Murdering Punks) - August 7, 1969

There has long been a tape identified as New Riders Of The Purple Sage (NRPS), Thursday, August 7, 1969 at the Matrix in San Francisco. Corry has found corroborating evidence for the dating, though of course the tape cannot be tied to the Ralph Gleason "On The Town" listing he found, which bill the band August 6-9.

Matt Smith has recently undertaken a great high end transfer of Will Boswell's tape of this show, somewhere (but not too far) downstream from Matrix proprietor Peter Kafer's copy.

What an opportunity! We get to hear more or less the first gig of the New Riders an sich (Corry, see link above). Marmaduke jokes that they formerly called themselves the Murdering Punks, and they certainly murdilize a few arrangements here in what sounds for all the world like a public rehearsal. Thanks to everyone involved in creating a world in which we can hear this stuff.

My notes aren't very extensive, so let me just drop a few markers.

1) Proto-New Riders. Fascinating, exceptionally sloppy stuff.

2) The tape distorts throughout, especially on the pedal steel.

3) "Kaw-Liga" is a great freaking song. See also 7/30/70, another Thursday at the Matrix.

4) Garcia's tone on the pedal steel is unlike any other I hear him achieving. I doubt he's technically very proficient, but the soaring sound of the instrument grabs you right in the lonely spot more than a few times.

5) This copy is missing a second iteration of "Last Lonely Eagle" - see my notes, which conclude that it probably was played in both sets, since the second LLE segues over continuous tape into the show-closing "Six Days On The Road". More generally, I suspect that this reel #1 and reel #3, with a reel #2 MIA from public circulation.


New Riders of the Purple Sage
3138 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94123

August 7, 1969 (Thursday)
70 min PNW flac2496 shnid-133326

--15 tracks, 69:53)--

--set I (10 tracks, 43:04)--
t01. [0:27] Kaw-Liga -4:28 [0:14]
t02. If You Hear Me When I'm Leavin'
t03. tuning (1) [1:25]
t04. Superman [3:42] [0:36]
t05. Mama Tried [2:25] [0:02] % [0:11]
t06. Games People Play [5:53] [0:21]
t07. Last Lonely Eagle [5:24] [0:01] % [0:06]
t08. Truck Drivin' Man [3:09] [0:05]
t09. Me And My Uncle [3:30] (2) -4:07
t10. Delilah [3:47] (4) % pre-set II [-0:05]

--set II (5 tracks, 26:48, incomplete)
t11. Long Black Veil [5:44] % [0:06]
t12. All I Ever Wanted [8:02] [0:10]
t13. Henry [3:35] % [0:10]
t14. Don't Take Chances [5:21] [0:03]
[MISSING: Last Lonely Eagle ->]
t15. Six Days On The Road (5) [3:30] [0:08]

! ACT1: New Riders Of The Purple Sage
! lineup: John Dawson - rhythm guitar, vocals;
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - pedal steel guitar;
! lineup: David Nelson - lead guitar, vocals;
! lineup: ??? - bass;
! lineup: Mickey Hart - drums.

 ! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.
! TJS: "actual date of the show is uncertain, but 8-7 is typically the date listed for this tape."
! JGC:
! db: (PNW flac16); (PNW flac24)
! map:
! venue:;
! seealso: Arnold, Corry. 2010. August 6-9, 1969 The Matrix, San Francisco New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Lost Live Dead, February 16, URL, consulted 6/21/2015.
! historical: The material is pretty primitive ... the official NRPS concert history at suggests that this is their 6th show, though that would include what are understood to be Garcia/Dawson duets on at least two occasions.  They certainly seem to be trying to find their feet here, and it wouldn't surprise me if this were one of the very first full-band gigs.
! personnel: LIA (comments to this post): "That is absolutely not Phil on bass. He couldn't play this primitively in '69 if he tried. The bass player has a totally different sound & fingering than Phil - he only plays the root notes, crudely & repetitively. I say it's Bob Matthews, unless a two-fingered bass player steps up as candidate."
! setlist: I surmise that we have reel #1 (the set II material) and reel #3 (the end of set II and the show). Furthermore, other dubs of the Peter Kafer tape have a second version of "Last Lonely Eagle" in set II, segueing without tape discontinuity into "Six Days On The Road". I am guessing someone left it off because they thought it extraneous, what with repeats being nearly unheard of in the Garciaverse. But the band the song are brand new, the whole thing feels like an avowed rehearsal, and I would not be surprised to learn that they had tackled it in both sets.
! R: Recording Info: MR > R (Peter Kafer) > 7.5 ips reel (Will Boswell)
! R: Transfer info:  Akai GX636 direct tape head output  > Bottlehead tube tape pre pair Tesla tubes circa 1980  > Apogee Mini Me 24/96  > Apogee Mini DAC monitoring and mastering  > FLAC. Mastered By Matt Smith, April 2015.
! R: seeder comments: Notable gain difference between songs.
! R: stunning SQ in terms of a representation of the source tape. The source tape is super bright and oversaturated, especially on the steel guitar, and the fileset faithfully captures all of that. (What else could it aim to do?)
! P: t01 What an incredible song. Not 100% together, but Hank Williams ... early 2 Garcia's pedal steel lead is just incredible - not the most gifted, but just in terms of the sound he is getting out of the instrument, trying to give acoustic form to that sound in his head.
! t03 (1) JD: "The name of this organization is the New Riders of the Purple Sage, formerly the Murdering Punks." A little later, after some stage chatter. "Oh ... I'm told there's a Murdering Punk left. There's still a murdering punk in the organization. We ain't sayin' ... for the protection of the audience. For the protection of the band, for that matter." Someone says "Let's do that 'Superman' song, JD into mic "the 'Superman' song".
! P: GPP is rather shambolic.
! R: t07 LLE tape warble 4:48, I think I hear some warbling after that.
! P: t08 TDM late 2 kind of falls out of key.
! P: t09 MAMU has that real drippy "Kaw-Liga" feel, very dark.
! t09 (2) "We're gonna play 'Delilah' and then we're gonna take a break for a couple of moments." Someone else: "Then come back and play some more."
! R: t10 more tape warble
! R: t10 (4) "Thank you. Right. //"
! P: t12 AIEW early 3 there is some very ethereal playing that reminds me of some of the bending that Garcia would do in latter-day versions of the Manhattans' "Shining Star" (youtube). Nelson is doing some real nice stuff, is that Nelson, or the steel? Wow, this is some amazing steel ethereality.
! P: t13 Henry mess up ending, but not bad overall, given the other songs.
! P: t14 DTC again there is some real ethereal stuff happening in the guitars.
! P: t15 SDOTR they don't know how to end it. These arrangements are checkered at best. This is a public rehearsal.
! t15 (5) "We're gonna make it home right now. Thank you very much."


  1. This really is an amazingly good version, far better than my dusty old cassette (which I got from Dick Latvala some time in the mid-80s), or any other version I have heard since. Certainly the most distinctive thing is Garcia's sharp tone on the pedal steel. This fits my hypothesis that what appealed to Garcia about the steel was the sound, not the notes. He could play the notes just fine on a six-string, but he liked the sound of a pedal steel and a hotwired Owsley amp.

    Do you have a sense of whether Phil Lesh is playing bass, or Bob Matthews? Logic says that it's Matthews, but none of the participants seem to remember, just repeating stories that they have told a million times even thought the facts don't line up.

    1. Is this a good place to discuss the essentially Post-Modern nature of "Truck Drivin' Man?" A song called "Truck Drivin' Man" about a song about a Truck Drivin' Man? Written and recorded by Terry Fell in 1954 (not Laurence Sterne), and rerecorded by Buck Owens in 1965 albeit with an extra verse (not sung by the Riders).

    2. Recursive, if not truly post-modern - little irony detected, although certainly rootsy. I guess this IS the place...

  2. I should add that since 2016 will be the anniversary of the first Grateful Dead performance of "Me And My Uncle," the fact that the early New Riders did it means that Jerry played the song more than Bob.

  3. I listened closely to stage talk for any indication of Phil vs. Bob, came up empty, and the playing didn't jump out at me as Phil or not, though it might to others.

    This version of MAMU, as I say in my listening notes, sounds good and spooky with this primal steel guitar of Jerry's.

  4. That is absolutely not Phil on bass. He couldn't play this primitively in '69 if he tried. The bass player has a totally different sound & fingering than Phil - he only plays the root notes, crudely & repetitively. I say it's Bob Matthews, unless a two-fingered bass player steps up as candidate...

    It also struck me that Dave Nelson can barely be heard in the first set. In fact, I wasn't sure if he's even playing in most the songs, though I can faintly hear him at points.
    He's up louder in the mix in the second set - you can hear him soloing along with Garcia in All I Ever Wanted, which helps give that song more atmosphere.

    I presume it's Nelson doing the quiet harmonies in the background on some songs? 9/18/69 seems to be our only NRPS tape with Garcia singing harmonies.

    1. I will take your ears on the bass. It makes sense that it was Matthews, who was a great engineer but not really a musician. I don't think Hunter every played live, just rehearsed.

      I have always felt that the Sep 18 '69 NRPS tape was very atypical, with Garcia's singing. Of course, we only have two tapes, but there are almost no pedal steel players who play and sing at the same time. I think Jerry tried it one night (Sep 18), and figured out that it either wasn't doable or not of interest, and never did it again.

      We actually know nothing about NRPS setlists or arrangements from Sep 18 '69 to Apr 18 1970.

  5. On 9/2/70, he sings some backing vocals (Nelson is out sick), but I note that I think he is alternating the steel playing and the singing, not doing them at the same time.


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