Sad news indeed. New Riders Of The Purple Sage founder/singer/songwriter John “Marmaduke” Dawson died yesterday in Mexico of stomach cancer.
NRPS was part of the S.F. music scene back in its heyday. They opened for the Grateful Dead more than any other band and Dead members Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart were actually NRPS originals. Even Dead bassist Phil Lesh played with them in the early days.
According to Grateful Dead publicist Dennis McNally, “Garcia wanted to practice pedal steel guitar somewhere other than his living room, and his friend John Dawson had a Monday night solo gig at a pizza joint in Menlo Park, so Jerry said he’d come down and back him up. We’ll never know if Jerry was aware of the material John had already written, but it was wonderful stuff: ‘Last Lonely Eagle,’ ‘Garden of Eden,’ ‘Glendale Train,’ ‘Henry.’ With material like that, the band simply had to become a reality, and so it did.”
In the late 1990’s Dawson left the band and moved to Mexico claiming he was tired of touring. The band reunited in 2006 without Dawson, though with his blessing. They recently released a new album.