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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reading Notes: Kahlbacher, Gene. 1974. Aquarian Interview: New Riders of the Purple Sage. Aquarian, January 29 – February 12, 1974, pp. 14, 27, 31.

NB: I didn’t have the year of this publication, somehow. But from the context of Torbert leaving and Battin just arriving, I believe it is 1974.

Kahlbacher 1974, 14: How much of an inspiration has JG been to NRPS, and was he its Founding Father? Spencer Dryden: “Rather than father, I look to Jerry for inspiration. But he doesn’t want to hear any more about it.” JG doesn’t want to be seen as a mystic.

Kahlbacher 1974, 14: Dawson on origins of NRPS: “I was wandering around for a long time at several colleges and not really knowing what the goal was. … I’d learned to play the guitar a long time back, but I never practiced a whole bunch. … I was wandering around and this whole bunch of changes came down on me. For one thing, I ceased trying to get a group together right then, as I had been for a long time. I finally came down to the point of saying ‘This obviously isn’t what’s happening right now, and instead of wasting my time trying to do that – putting my energies into something that isn’t panning – I should put my energies into something that is working. So I got a gig in a little coffee house, playing and singing songs … eventually it came down where Jerry Garcia was learning pedal steel guitar at the same time that I was trying to learn how to be a singer and pick a few songs. We got together on a kind of thing where I’d come to his living room and I’d plunk out simple tuns for him to try to put steel licks behind.”

Kahlbacher 1974, 14: Nelson: “I played in a bunch of bands, mostly bluegrass bands. There were lots of clubs we played … Later I played with Torbert in an electric band called the New Delhi River Band, and then I was with Pete Albin and Dave Getz.”

Kahlbacher 1974, 14: Dryden’s entry into NRPS: “The tune ‘Dirty Business,’ actually, made me join the Riders. I was leaving the Airplane, and McIntyre [sic] and Owsley came down to the big house [the Airplane House] … and said ‘You really should see the New Riders. I think you might be able to help them out’. But I was thinking of producing, not playing. I was tired. I’d been through that before. But I went down to see them [NRPS] at the Family Dog on the beach, on the Great Highway … At the time the drummer for the Riders was Mickey Hart, and they also have Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia. So the thing was, I wasn’t doing anything, and Mickey was looking for his own trip which culminated in his producing a solo album, Rolling Thunder.”

Kahlbacher 1974, 14: how have NRPS evolved since they were just opening for GD? Dryden: “It’s evolved … graduated. Jerry was working two gigs at once and doing extra recordings, and it became hard. Two sound checks [raising his eyebrows]. He was working the equivalent of 12-14 hours a day. It’s rough, man. He’s got other things he wants to do, other people he wants to play with, other music he wants to make. So we went out [in 1971] and got Buddy.”

Kahlbacher 1974, 14: how did Buddy Cage become a member of the group? Dryden: “Buddy, immediately prior to us, was with Ann Murray, from Canada. And before that he was with Ian and Sylvia [Tyson] and the Great Speckled Bird. When the guys made that train trip across Canada … we met up with Buddy and it was a real flash. And for Jerry especially, because he considers himself a novice at the pedal steel. I don’t consider him so, I consider him an innovator. Because he plays differently from almost anybody I’ve heard. But he admits that he didn’t have the chops that Buddy has. I mean, Buddy’s got years and years and it’s his main instrument. It’s Jerry’s second or third: he’s played banjo and mandolin and shit like that, besides electric guitar … Buddy knows how to play that sucker, real clean and real fast. And Jerry’s amazed, yet Buddy’s amazed at Jerry’s chordal formations and legato [smooth] style. Actually, you want to know what really happened? Well, we were making this tour, see. And we called Buddy down ‘cause Jerry said he was gonna quit … this was three [and one-half] years ago. So we got Buddy down, made some rehearsals, and then we were going on tour. But Jerry was still with us. We flew from San Francisco to Atlanta, and Jerry missed the plane. Buddy made the plane. And we got in at something like four in the morning. Jerry couldn’t get there ‘till seven that night and we went on at seven. So the trip was all of a sudden ‘Hey Cage, Garcia’s not here. You wanna go on stage?’ ‘Sure, man’, he says, ‘set up my pedal steel’. He went on and played with us. Jerry came in –they came down and picked him up at 7:30 or so, and he got there at quarter to eight –and he heard the end of the set. Buddy walked off the stage, and Jerry went up to Buddy, shook his hand, and said ‘Man, you just got yourself a gig!’”

Kahlbacher 1974, 27: how Marmaduke got his name: Dawson: “A guy named Rick who was hanging out in this house where we were all hanging out, in the summer of 1965, smoked this large joint of Acapulco Gold one morning just before I came over to visit them. As I walked in, he decided that my name shouldn’t be John Dawson after all, and that ‘Marmaduke’ was much better.”

Kahlbacher 1974, 27: Marmaduke on ‘Last Lonely Eagle’: “It was one of the major comings out of my personal life … one day I ate a couple of chemicals and went wandering around in a place called Pinnacles National Monument with David Torbert and two guys that’re now in his band – Chris Herold and Matthew Kelly, who’s played harmonica on some of our albums. We were wandering around down there and this whole bunch of changes came down on me.”

Kahlbacher 1974, 27: why did Torbert leave the band? Dryden: “He wanted to make other music. And he only joined this band to make an album. He was on his way from Hawaii to Europe about three or four years ago. He got a call from Marmaduke, who said ‘Why not come and help us make this [the first] album, play a bit.’ He said okay and stayed with us.”

Kahlbacher 1974, 31: “when Buddy Cage came down from Toronto to join the band … Jerry was totally happy.”

Kahlbacher 1974, 31: do you attribute your success to the band’s association with the GD? Nelson: “It helped.”


  1. A few quick comments:

    The "Rick" who gave Dawson his nickname was apparently Rick Shubb.

    It's interesting to see that a proto-Kingfish already existed in January 74, as Dawson refers to "Torbert's current group." They may have been using the name Scarab at the time.

    I have never found any explanation of Torbert's departure adequate. He was just planning to be in the group for one album? He goes from headlining at Winterland in December '73 and a Columbia contract to being in an unsigned band that can't even get a gig at Keystone Berkeley? I think not.

    Since this blog isn't about The New Riders (it's about Hooteroll!!!), i won't belabor this point, but there had to be some problem, and I think it involved money.

  2. Note Dryden's statement that Buddy Cage's first show with them was in Atlanta - that would be 11/11/71.

    That jibes with the jerrysite's statement that 10/30/71 was Jerry's last regular NRPS show.

    Which would show (along with your new comment in the other post) that NRPS apparently did not play the Harding Theater shows, Nov 6-7. (I notice etree doesn't list those dates for them, either.)

  3. Well here's another speculation.
    Maybe NRPS didn't make the Harding Theater shows because they were rehearsing their material with Cage?

    Dryden makes it sound oh-so-casual that Cage and his pedal steel just happened to be coming along on the plane to Atlanta - why, if Jerry hadn't been late for the plane, Cage might have just sat idly by!

    Right. After the 10/30 show, Jerry was through, and I'd guess they called up Cage right away.

  4. And...this struck me...

    Dryden said, "Jerry was working two gigs at once and doing extra recordings, and it became hard... He was working the equivalent of 12-14 hours a day. It’s rough, man. He’s got other things he wants to do, other people he wants to play with, other music he wants to make."

    Might've been rough, but it seems that Jerry relished it through 1970 and the first half of '71. And it's not like in late '71 he had "other people & other music" competing for his attention - I'm not aware of anyone but Saunders. In fact the next few months were very quiet for Jerry (excepting the tour with Wales).

    The difference is - in Oct '71, Keith goes on his first tour with the Dead. Then all of a sudden, Jerry wants to quit NRPS.
    I have to think Jerry got very excited about finding a new partner...

  5. Yeah, I think we have seen that keyboards were really important to him, as one of you has said in one of our recent threads. Good point. And man oh man did the Keith-era GD get out of the gate quickly ... those October '71 GD shows are fantastic.

    BTW, I think there's no doubt the plan was for Buddy to take over in Atlanta. It seems like no-one was able to break it down cleanly, so Jerry stepped aside by "accidentally on purpose" missing the plane. Cage has said as much on numerous occasions.

    Re: JG's last gig with NRPS, I was under the impression that the conventional wisdom had it at the Harding. If the conventional wisdom says it was 10/30/71, I am happy because that's what I think the evidence supports.


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