Monday, December 28, 2009

In Memoriam: John Dawson

New Riders of the Purple Sage: Panama Red


John Collins Dawson IV, nicknamed "Marmaduke", was the leader and one of the co-founders of the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Born in Detroit he was the son of a California filmmaker. Before attending the Millbrook School for Boys near Millbrook, NY. where he studied music theory and history, he received guitar lessons from Mimi Farina, Joan Baez's sister.

By 1969 The New Riders were the opening act for the Grateful Dead. Original members of the group included three future members of the Dead; Jerry Garcia on pedal steel, Mickey Hart on drums, and Phil Lesh on bass. By 1970, Spencer Dryden and Dave Torbert replaced Hart and Lesh, respectively. Throughout '70 and '71 the New Riders and the Grateful Dead toured together and in '71 Jerry Garcia was replaced with Buddy Cage on the steel guitar, freeing up both bands to play independently of each other. It was during this same period when along with Garcia and Robert Hunter, Dawson co-wrote "Friend Of The Devil". He also appeared on three Dead albums during the same era.

"Marmaduke" became an English teacher in Mexico in 1997 when he retired from the music business and remained there until his death on July 21, 2009.

I first became acquainted with the New Riders back in the 70's when I first heard their now classic 'Henry' , a song about smuggling dope which I might add was posted by Darius back during the Drug theme.

For this post I've chosen another well known tune, Panama Red, written by Peter Rowan, the title track of their 1973 LP. and while it may be considered a bit mainstream, it's a fine example of this band's music.

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