John Dawson - guitar, vocals; David Nelson - lead guitar, vocals; Buddy Cage - pedal steel guitar; Dave Torbert - bass, vocals; Spencer Dryden - drums; Commander Cody - piano, tracks 7 & 9; Andy Stein - saxophone, track 9
This King Biscuit broadcast was compiled from two sets on the same night at New York's Academy of Music in 1973, just after the band had released its landmark album, The Adventures Of Panama Red. The line-up had solidified and no longer contained members of The Grateful Dead.
Like their counterparts in the San Francisco scene such as the Dead, the Airplane, and Hot Tuna, the New Riders had found an audience in the pioneer fans of what would become the "jam band" movement.
The group was enjoying its biggest commercial success during this period and, although they often opened for the Dead, by 1973, their audience was there for the music of the New Riders as much as the headliner.
This recording contains the usual variety of material, ranging from originals "You Should Have Seen Me Runnin'," "Groupie," "Glendale Train," and "Sutter's Mill," to fun and interesting covers, in this case, Rick Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou," Chuck Berry's "School Days," and Frankie Ford's 1959 gem, "Sea Cruise."
The New Riders Of The Purple Sage began as an off-shoot of the Grateful Dead extended family, and started as an after-hours jam band started by singer-songwriters David Nelson and John Dawson that allowed Dead founder Jerry Garcia to explore his deep country-rock leanings and his desire to play pedal steel. The band initially featured a blend of established and little-known players based in the Bay Area, including three Dead members (Garcia, drummer Mickey Hart, and bassist Phil Lesh). Before the band recorded in 1970, Lesh and Hart were gone, due to too many musical obligations with the Grateful Dead.
That left John Dawson on vocals and guitar, David Nelson on lead guitar and vocals, and Dave Torbert on bass and vocals to make up the core of the New Riders. Buddy Cage, a Canadian pedal steel player who had worked with Ian & Sylvia, was taking over pedal steel guitar duties for Garcia whenever Garcia was not available to sit in. Eventually he would become the band's permanent pedal steel player.
Largely on the strength of Garcia's involvement, the band landed a deal with Columbia Records. By the time they embarked on their second LP, Powerglide, Garcia was only sitting in on select recordings whenever he was not tied up with both the Grateful Dead and his own Jerry Garcia Band. Once Garcia became less active, it allowed Dawson, Nelson, and Torbert to take over as the band's creative forces.
In 1973, the group would see a commercial breakthrough with the novelty song "Panama Red," the story a modern pro-marijuana outlaw of the same name. Although their biggest commercial success was in the mid 1970s, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage have continued with a revolving door line-up, making the most of its appearances at Dead-inspired jam band festivals.