Benefit concerts celebrate life and legacy of Buddy Cage

  • Buddy Cage, a pedal steel guitarist most known for his time with New Riders of the Purple Sage, is the central figure for four benefit concerts this weekend. (Elizabeth Pitts / West Hawaii Today)
  • Buddy Cage, a pedal steel guitarist most known for his time with New Riders of the Purple Sage, is the central figure for four benefit concerts this weekend. (Elizabeth Pitts / West Hawaii Today)

OCEAN VIEW — From Bob Dylan to the Grateful Dead, pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage has lived his life playing with some of the most famous musicians of his generation.

“Everything I did on the road was a trip, just a trip,” said Cage, a longtime member of New Riders of the Purple Sage. “Back in those days, I drank myself crazy but I still got the jobs done. I just love what I do, you know, playing my steel guitar.”

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Even now, Cage still breaks out his guitar, all 93 pounds including the case, to play.

Cage will perform this weekend along with band Edge of the West for three concerts on the Big Island. Friday’s concert will be at 9 p.m. at the Lava Shack in Pahoa, Saturday’s concert is at 5 p.m. at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, and the closing concert is 2 p.m. Sunday at the Terraces in Ocean View.

Another show, with performances by The Stalkers and Larry Dupio, is at 4 p.m. Thursday at Kahaluu Beach Park to celebrate Cage’s birthday. Cage turned 72 last weekend. The event is open to the public.

The proceeds from the shows will go toward Cage to help with his battle with cancer.

Cage has suffered from two strokes since last June and has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

“I call him the miracle man,” said Charlene Raco, founder of Handijam, a nonprofit organization that serves the terminally ill, mentally, physically and emotionally challenged. Raco and Handijam are the creators of this weekend’s benefit concerts.

Raco said Edge of the West will perform music from musicians such as Cage’s New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Grateful Dead and Willie Nelson.

“It’s going to be a whole mixture of music, of rock and roll hits,” said Raco. “Buddy plays everything, so whatever they hit him with, he can play.”

Cage said his love for music began when he started learning pedal steel guitar “to impress the girls.” He said his passion intensified in the 1960s when he first heard Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

“I don’t know what it did to you when you first heard it; did it ever change you?” asked Cage. “It changed me. It altered with me, it tampered with me.”

Cage named Dylan as one of his heroes when he was younger, along with Joni Mitchell, James Brown and Miles Davis. Cage would later play with Dylan for the album Blood on the Tracks, which Cage says is an album that is special to him, specifically the song “Meet Me in the Morning.”

Other notable career marks for Cage include 15 studio albums with New Riders of the Purple Sage and touring with acts such as the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin in 1970 for the Festival Express concert tour.

This weekend’s lineup of shows are a celebration of all the work Cage has done in his long career.

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“All I am is parts of everybody I’ve known and worked with. I borrow from people from Oregon, and people from California and Arizona,” said Cage. “People that that just impress me. It’s hard to explain, but it’s just an infusion of (Jerry) Garcia, the Dead and all those things that just affected me one way or another.”

For more information: call Charlene Raco at (917)-561-4800. Tickets for the shows are $20.