The Grateful Dead. The Jefferson Airplane. Janis Joplin. Quicksilver Messenger Service.
All these names are synonymous with the San Francisco music scene of the late '60s. Yet, there's another band that also made an indelible impression, and, at the same time, helped bridge the divide between rock and country in ways that resonate even today. New Riders of the Purple Sage, or NRPS for short, influenced countless Americana bands and those that are a part of the roots rock brigade.
It was an outgrowth of an early friendship forged by budding guitarist David Nelson and Jerry Garcia, soon to become a lynchpin with those high priests of hallucinogens, the Grateful Dead. With a like-minded guitarist John "Marmaduke" Dawson along for the ride, the trio began performing country standards and traditional favorites around their native San Francisco.
While Garcia would go on to fame, and presumably fortune, with the Dead, Nelson and Dawson went on to pursue their own musical ambitions. Nelson contributed to the Dead's epic Aoxomoxa and played a transitional role with Janis Joplin's former band Big Brother. Dawson tried his hand as a folksinger and, after an inspirational experience with mescaline, began writing the songs that would become a part of the early NRPS canon.
Later, with bassist Dave Tolbert in tow, and Garcia contributing his budding skills on pedal steel and fellow Dead members Mickey Hart and occasionally Phil Leah offering their contributions on occasion, the band's initial incarnation began to take shape. Its eponymous debut album, released in 1971, encapsulated their signature sound, a combination of stoner rock, lilting country melodies, and occasional hints of bluegrass.More »