Buddy Cage, New Riders of the Purple Sage Steel Guitarist, Dead at 73

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Buddy Cage, the longtime pedal steel guitarist with the country-rock stalwarts the New Riders of the Purple Sage, died Feb. 4, 2020, of multiple myeloma. His passing was confirmed by Michael Falzarano, a former member of the band. Cage was 73.

Falzarano posted on Facebook, “It’s with great sadness we say good bye to Buddy Cage. I’d say Rest In Peace but I know he’ll be rockin’ wherever he goes! Hey Buddy see ya in the next life time.”

Listen to “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)” from 1972’s Powerglide

Cage was born Feb. 18, 1946, in Toronto, Ontario, and took up the pedal steel in his youth. By the early 1960s he’d turned professional. In 1969 he joined the Canadian husband-wife folk duo Ian and Sylvia’s band  the Great Speckled Bird. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, Cage recorded with them, as well as artists as diverse as Anne Murray and Brewer and Shipley.

New Riders of the Purple Sage in the 1970s (l. to r.): John “Marmaduke” Dawson, David Nelson, Dave Torbert, Spencer Dryden, Buddy Cage

Cage was performing with Great Speckled Bird on the Festival Express Tour—a rock caravan that crossed Canada by train in 1970, with artists such as Janis Joplin, the Band and the Grateful Dead on board—when he was heard by the New Riders. At that time, the Dead’s Jerry Garcia had been performing pedal steel duties with the New Riders—also known as NRPS—but was looking to vacate his position with the second band as the Dead’s touring schedule was heating up.

1973’s The Adventures of Panama Red, one of several NRPS albums featuring Cage

When Cage left Ian and Sylvia, the New Riders recruited him as Garcia’s replacement. He joined the band in 1971 and played on their second album, 1972’s Powerglide, as well as their other recordings until the early ’80s. Cage also continued to freelance as a sideman, contributing to recordings by Bob Dylan (he played on some Blood on the Tracks sessions), David Bromberg, Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and others.

Related: 1971 in classic rock albums

Cage’s involvement with NRPS was  on and off until lead singer John Dawson’s retirement in 1997. Cage continued to work with others, including the Band’s Rick Danko. In 2005, Cage and the band’s original lead guitarist David Nelson, formed a new lineup of the group and continued to tour and occasionally record.

Watch Cage perform the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” with NRPS in 1975

Jeff Tamarkin

5 Comments so far

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  1. Frank
    #1 Frank 5 February, 2020, 23:57

    I was lucky enough to know Buddy. Something recorded in 1987, with Rick Danko, and Sredni Vollmer. Buddy was cosmic in this space. May all 3 enjoy eternity! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suDrUVtP7vo&fbclid=IwAR3seqzT8e38tlaSQ1Cpu-KNpw1UobHUSCVbEEA0FTX65G4GYzNsBikV_yM

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  2. Sully
    #2 Sully 10 February, 2020, 12:36

    Buddy was a long time friend who unselfish gave his music talent to The Jed Hover review, Stir Fried and Tumbleweed among many other bands. Our relationship was more personal and I will miss my friend. See you on the other side Buddy!

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    • Jed
      Jed 10 February, 2020, 17:36

      Buddy was a great friend, wonderful to play music with, he supported the Owen CLARKE foundation and recently golfe in thE tournament. Love Jed

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  3. Dink
    #3 Dink 2 January, 2021, 19:06

    This damn 2020 took way too many of the greatest writers, song writers,
    managers to musicians, hello in there-John Prine, we sadly miss each and everyone of you truly!

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