Escaping through a lily field,
I came across an empty space –
It trembled and exploded,
Left a bus stop in its place.
The bus came by and I got on,
That’s when it all began.
There was cowboy Neal at the wheel,
Of a bus to Never Ever Land.
Cowboys Dead formed in 2007 to explore the music of Marty Robbins, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Reed, Don Nix, Merle Haggard, New Riders, Rolling Stones, Peter Rowan and more...in the spirit of the Grateful Dead. With a passion for the sound of Dead in the early 70s, Cowboys Dead reaches deep into the the Dead's repertoire, bringing to today's audiences great Pig Pen era tunes such as Smokestack Lightning, Mr. Charlie, Alligator and It Hurts Me Too.
Cowboys Dead founder and lead guitarist, Dave Dardine, came up with the name from a bootleg Grateful Dead LP with the same name. The Cowboy's Dead LP was recorded live at Harpur, May 2, 1970. The set list from that show became a loose road map for the band, on a road with no signs or dividing lines and very few rules to guide.
"Cowboys Dead" is also a tip of the hat to the late, great "Cowboy" Neal Cassady, the larger-than-life man who infamously was at the wheel and whose ineffable spirit lives on in the writings of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg and Ken Kesey, and certainly in the music of the Grateful Dead.
"Neal helped us be the kind of band we are, a concert not a studio band…It wasn’t as if he said, “Jerry, my boy, the whole ball of wax happens here and now.” It was watching him move, having my mind blown by how deep he was, how much he could take into account in any given moment and be really in time with it." - Jerry Garcia
The Dead took that spark into their music, that time-knowing, that knowledge that in each moment a beauty is possible as intensely itself and newly created as the surface of the sun: radiance that still shines in the music. It is that SPARK that Cowboys Dead seeks to create on stage.
"Like the Grateful Dead before us, we are not a studio band. And probably not a bar band. We are a band that lets Cowboy Neal take the wheel and we just try to hang on and go with it." - Dave Dardine
The core band consists of Dave Dardine on lead guitar and vocals, Ken Duran on rhythm guitar and vocals, Doug Salmon on bass guitar, Ed Anderson on vocals and harp, and Dave White on drums.
Dave Dardine got on the bus at first his Dead show at Dillon Stadium in 1974 which he credits for turning him on to what happens when the music plays the band. He leads Cowboys Dead with a drive and passion for excellence in live music. Never satisfied with the surface, Dave has spent a lifetime digging deep into the roots of the Grateful Dead sound, especially the music that influenced Jerry Garcia - from bluegrass to blues to jazz and reggae. Dave is a well known musician along the front range, having played in such bands as Common Ground, Vegetable Stew, the Howlers, Rounder, and the Agave Brothers. In addition to Cowboy's Dead, Dave also plays with an eclectic and loose consortium of musicians steeped in blues, jazz and jam called the Dave Dardine Project.
Ken Duran brings a mid-western twang to Cowboys Dead, having grown up in eastern Nebraska before migrating to Colorado in the late 80's. Over the years, Ken has played in several bands including Shutdown Friday, Crow For Day, Bitter Dregs, Dishwasher Safe, and the Dave Dardine Project before joining up with Cowboys Dead.
Doug Salmon has played in a variety of bands since 1978, including Connie & the Rhythm Method, The Bachelors, The Ambivalents, Mr. Baby, Backwash, Bent, Second Hand Smokers, and the Dave Dardine Project. He has played a variety of styles, including Jazz, Blues, Reggae, Ska, Funk, Soul, R & B, and Rock. He has performed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, traveled on a Reggae tour through Montana, and played a host of venues in Utah and Northern Colorado. In addition to playing bass with Cowboys Dead, Doug currently plays saxophone with the Absolutes.
Ed Anderson cut his harp playing teeth at local Blues Jams. His vocals have been compared to the great Willy Nelson, and he plays his harp with his whole heart and soul. Ed is another Nebraska transplant, and he brings to Cowboys Dead a real-ness and authenticity that can best be described by the immortal words of Popeye, "I yam what I yam".
Dave White and Oscar DeSoto take turns filling out the Cowboys Dead line up on drums. Dave has been a staple on the Front Range music scene for many years, and also currently drums for the Bardots and Peaches Embry. Oscar is a much sought after drummer, and currently performs with the Twirling Zucchini Brothers, as well as several other bands.