Black Friday takes a purple hue this week when the New Riders of the Purple Sage perform in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room.
The psychedelic Americana band which in its earlier form included Jerry Garcia began its “renaissance” in 2005. It includes pioneering members Buddy Cage and David Nelson who are joined by guitarist Michael Falzarano, drummer Johnny Markowski and bassist Ronnie Penque. It released 2012 a studio album,” 17 Pine Avenue,” upon which seven of its 12 songs are penned by Greatful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.
The band plays about 100 shows a year, and comes to Tahoe once every two to three years.
Cage, in an interview with this reporter a few years ago, told the story about how he replaced Garcia.
Cage was on a historic 1970 music train tour across Canada which is the subject of a documentary film, “Festival Express.” He said Garcia was the person who convinced the reluctant musicians to take the tour.
“Jerry called everybody personally,” Cage said. “Janis (Joplin) and Robbie (Robertson) and Buddy (Guy) and Sha Na Na. He said, ‘What are you on drugs? You’ve got to do this gig. This is the best thing that could ever happen to you in a lifetime.’ ”
While most bands of that era were, in fact, on drugs, the ones Garcia addressed did acquiesce and got on board.
Garcia’s bands, the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage, were on the train, along with Ian & Syliva and the Great Speckled Bird, which included Cage.
The Dead faced had an impending deadline with record label Warner Bros. to produce a follow-up record to “Workingman’s Dead,” Cage said.
That was why Garcia made his decision on the train trip to leave NRPS to fully concentrate on the Grateful Dead’s next album.
“You do not want to default on a record deadline with a major company,” Cage said. “You don not want that in your life. So the heat was on. The pressure was enormous, so Jerry reluctantly (quit) New Riders.
“Everybody said, ‘Hey what about us?’ And Jerry said, ‘What about you, man? You can still tour with us but you’ve got to get a ringer, a guy that could really play steel.’ And then as he and Nelson were walking across the football field that we were playing on the first day that I was playing with Ian and Sylvia, they heard me playing, and Garcia turned to Nelson and said, ‘There’s your ringer.’ ”
Garcia, Bob Weir and Joplin later spoke with Cage.
“Jerry said, ‘Hey man, I want you to take this other job I’ve got with the New Riders.’
“I didn’t know them from a hole in the wall, so I went, ‘I don’t know man. I do have a bunch of commitments. But I am looking for something on the outside and there are no rules.’ I was looking for that kind of concept anyway. It took another four months to take care of contracts.”
The New Riders also included Dead members Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh.
Cage was out of the band from 1982 to 2005.
Founding member John Dawson died in 2009. Dave Torbert who played with NRPS and the Dead died in 1982.
Nelson has his own project, which includes Pete Sears, John Molo, Barry Sless and Mookie Siegel.
New Riders of the Purple Sage
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Tickets: $17 in advance or $20 at the door
Nov. 27 – Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
Nov. 30 – Mystic Theatre, Petaluma
Dec. 1 – Moe’s Alley, Santa Cruz