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The Long Ryders


Jim Merlis


Signed to (then) hip indie label Frontier the band recorded their debut LP Native Sons with the late, great Henry Lewy producing. Lewy had worked with the Flying Burrito Brothers on their classic Gilded Palace Of Sin LP as well as with the Association, Barbara Streisand and Van Morrison. Lewy had enjoyed a long, fruitful studio partnership with Joni Mitchell. Together the Long Ryders and Lewy came up with an album called “a modern American classic” by Melody Maker and soon found themselves on the cover of the New Musical Express as well as playing live on the BBC’s Whistle Test TV show.

After touring the USA for much of 1984 Europe was theirs for the taking in March/April 1985. Sold out gig followed sold out gig and the band were second only to The Smiths in the alternative charts of the day. (They remain second to the Smiths even now.) Signed to Island Records in early summer the band released the album State Of Our Union in September 1985 and soon found themselves number one in the College Radio/Alternative charts for four weeks running in their native land. Their single “Looking For Lewis & Clark” crashed into the charts and became their signature song.

The following year was spent consolidating their success. In America REM told them “soon as we get through making the Replacements famous you guys are next!”, in Spain they headlined a Barcelona festival to over 100,000 which was broadcast live on national radio, in Canada the Toronto Daily Mail called them “the best thing to happen to roots rock since The Band”, in Italy they played eighteenth century opera houses and gave press conferences as if heads of state and in Great Britain The Long Ryders were considered family to their fans and a breath of fresh air to the UK’s rock critics.

After a spring tour to work out new songs The Long Ryders released Two-Fisted Tales in early summer 1987. Produced by Ramones/Smithereens whiz Ed Stasium, it gave them a radio turntable hit with “I Want You Bad” and the touring began again. U2 asked them to open shows on the North American wing of their Joshua Tree tour and the high life beckoned.

Alas it was not to be. Bassist Tom Stevens left the road to be with his young family in August and by Christmas Stephen McCarthy left to write musicials. Island asked Messers. Griffin and Sowders for another album but without their old compadres their hearts were not in it and they foolishly if honorably declined. (Griffin and Sowders will happily make Island that album now if they are still interested. Call us!)

Since then The Long Ryders have graced us with several reissues, The Very Best Of The Long Ryders (Prima Records Ltd.), released June 2004, and October 2008 saw the release of Live 2004: State Of Our Reunion, a nineteen track reprise of the Ryders legendary reunion tour.

In 2014 the Long Ryders played their first L.A. show in 27 years, the Earle Mankey Appreciation Concert. A short run of dates in Spain followed in December of that year.

On January 22, 2016, Cherry Red Records in London released a four CD box set of the Long Ryders. A tour of Europe took place on the last week of April/first week of May and a West Coast tour of the USA followed.

On February 15, 2019 Cherry Red Records in London releases the first new Long Ryders album in over thirty years, Psychedelic Country Soul. (In the USA the album is released by Omnivore.) And you know what this means… it means the band will hit the road for live performances. So put that wighat on yo’ head and get ready to rock da joint.

Ask anyone in Wilco, the Black Crows, the Jayhawks (who employed Stephen McCarthy on their final albums and tours) or Slobberbone and they will tell you: don’t miss The Long Ryders if they come to your town. Their unforgettable live shows are spoken of in the same breath as were the live shows of such classic acts as The Faces, Sam & Dave, or even their friend Tom Petty’s in-concert act.

The Long Ryders backstage in 2016The Long Ryders backstage in Madrid in 2016 following a great opening night of the European Tour.

NOW DIG THIS: in April 2019 the Long Ryders will play their first European shows in three years! The first four shows are in Great Britain and then the band heads to the continent to rock some socks off there. Watch this space for details. To add to the excitement the Long Ryders expect to be back this side of the pond in summer 2019 for a handful of key festival performances and in autumn 2019 Sid, Greg, Tom and Stephen return to Europe for three more weeks of touring in support of their new album, Psychedelic Country Soul.

American fans need not worry as the Long Ryders are doing both a west coast swing and an east coast swing of dates in 2019 as well. The gigs are being booked now so now details yet but California, here we come! And we won’t forget NYC, Boston, Washington DC, Atlanta, and so forth. If there is enough interest the band will do gigs elsewhere but for now their cup runneth over!

The Long Ryders are:
  • Sid Griffin guitar, harmonica, autoharp, therapy & vocals.
  • Greg Sowders drums, percussion & song publishing.
  • Tom Stevens bass, acoustic bass, computer genius & vocals.
  • Stephen McCarthy main guitar, banjo, mandolin, lap steel & vocals.

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Henry Diltz