Buddy Cage, best known for playing pedal steel guitar for New Riders Of The Purple Sage, has died at age 73. NRPS guitarist Michael Falzarano and the band confirmed that his death as the result of multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, on Wednesday.
Cage joined the New Riders of the Purple Sage in 1971, filling the enormous shoes of one Jerry Garcia, who played pedal steel guitar for the group since founding it two years earlier in San Francisco with John Dawson. Before Cage joined the band, he already boasted a resume that included work with Anne Murray as well as tenure on the famed Festival Express with Great Speckled Bird, where he rubbed elbows with the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, and more on the train tour of Canada.
The New Riders finalized their lineup upon Cage’s inclusion, as he joined Dawson and fellow guitarist David Nelson, bassist Dave Torbert and Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden in a group that had previously included such temporary members as Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh. Cage remained with the group until 1978. He briefly left the group in ’78 only to return in 1980 and depart yet again in 1982.
Over the years, Cage also made a name for himself through his work as a session musician. His credits include Bob Dylan‘s 1974 album Blood On The Tracks, as well as work with Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, Ronnie Hawkins, Mike Gordon, and more. The closest Cage came to releasing his own album was 2000’s Last Of The Diamond Miners by Stir Fried with Buddy Cage and guests.
In 2006, the New Riders of the Purple Sage reunited featuring a lineup that included Cage, Nelson, Falzarano, bassist Ronnie Penque, and drummer Johnny Markowski. The reunion lineup toured the United States, produced a live album, Wanted: Live At Turkey Trot, and two studio albums, Where I Come From and 17 Pine Avenue. The New York Times reported last year that recordings from NRPS were destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios Hollywood backlot fire.
Cage is survived by his daughter Elvira Stark.