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Koerner, Ray & Glover
@ First Avenue, November 21, 1998
By Ray Stiles

Koerner, Glover & Ray
Photo © 1998 by Steve Felling.
All rights reserved
From "Blues, Rags and Hollers" to "One Foot In The Groove," Koerner, Ray and Gloverís exceptional musical career, spanning four decades, has been a portrait in survival. No discussion of the music scene in the early 1960ís is complete without talking about the influence that these three musicians had on the revival of folk-blues music. Starting out as one of the most influential groups in the early 1960ís folk-blues revival these three highly individualistic musicians have gone on to record more than 40 albums (either together, with other artists, in duos or solo) and have come full circle performing together as a trio again in recent years. What has remained consistent throughout all these years has been their unwavering dedication to preserving this traditional form of American folk and blues music.

"Spider" John Koerner, Dave "Snaker" Ray, and Tony "Little Sun" Glover, formed the legendary trio of Koerner, Ray and Glover in the early 1960ís when they were a driving force in the urban folk music revival. This influential trio recorded five albums for Elektra during the 1960Ďs that featured an invigorating mix of folk, ragtime, string-band, and country blues. Their rowdy enthusiasm and musical talent helped breath new life into the traditional folk and blues songs they were performing, making it accessible to a whole new generation of fans.


Dave Ray
Photo © 1998 by Steve Felling.
All rights reserved
"In 1963, with the help of Paul Nelson (The Little Sandy Review) Koerner, Ray & Glover hooked up with Audiophile records in Milwaukee and, in one twelve-hour session, recorded "Blues, Rags & Hollers." They put copies into the hands of a few influential people, including Jac Holzman at Elektra Records. When Holzman heard it, he flew to Minneapolis and signed them to a recording contract. Elektra also bought the "Blues, Rags & Hollers" masters from Audiophile and re-released it." That one recording as survived the test of time and remains one of the most influential albums of that folk revival era.

The trio drifted apart in the late 1960ís pursuing solo careers or other endeavors, occasionally reuniting for special shows and recordings during the Seventies and Eighties. In the 1990's The Minnesota Music Academy named them "Best Folk Group" and elected them as one of the first inductees to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, along with Prince and Bob Dylan. Ray & Glover have maintained an active performing partnership over the years with a steady Thursday night show at the Times Bar & Grill in Minneapolis that is in its ninth year (although a wrecking ball is threatening to demolish that quaint establishment, so donít wait too long before going down there to see them).

Koerner & Glover
Photo © 1998 by Steve Felling.
All rights reserved
The group has come back into the spotlight recently with the reissue of the landmark Koerner, Ray & Glover album "Blues, Rag & Hollers." The trio also reunited in 1996 for their first recording in thirty-five years with the critically acclaimed "One Foot In The Groove." In 1998 Dave Ray also issued a new solo album called "Snake Eyes," (on Tim/Kerr Records). "Blues, Rags and Hollers--the Koerner, Ray & Glover Story," is a 1986 VHS video performance-documentary written and produced by Tony Glover that has been reissued by Latch Lake Music Productions. (For details call (800) 528-2437).

A listing of a few of the titles of their many albums tells a story about these iconoclastic musicians all by itself -- "Ashes in My Whiskey," "Legends In Their Spare Time," "Troubadours of the Folk Era," "Running, Jumping, Standing Still," "Star Geezer," "Picture Has Faded," "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Been," and "What Was The Question?" Today, Koerner, Ray and Glover are still turning heads whenever they perform their rollicking, foot stomping, and sometimes irreverent renditions of traditional folk and obscure blues.

This particular show at First Avenue was an unusual paring with KR&G opening for aging punk rocker Patti Smith. But Twin Citiesí music fans of all ages were fortunate to see these somewhat under appreciated legends perform together again. This was also one of the first Twin Citiesí performances of the trio since John Koerner underwent heart bypass surgery last year.

As I was standing by the door waiting for a friend before the show, I had a good laugh as I overheard the door man tell some young Patti Smith fans who Koerner, Ray & Glover were. He said "they were a bunch of old guys playing some real good 50ís rock and roll." You just canít say enough for these young, "well informed" club workers.


Spider John Koerner
Photo © 1998 by Steve Felling.
All rights reserved
Their set was fairly short but very good with Koerner doing his usual clowning around. At one point he dropped his pick into his guitar and was having a hard time getting it out. He was shaking it upside down and finally gave up, shrugging his shoulders and continuing without it. He also got a big laugh when he said "for those of you who want to know what kind of music we play, itís traditional American folk songs played ANY way we want to." A few of the songs they performed included "Black Dog Blues," Whatís The Matter With The Mill," "Black Jack Davy," and "John Hardy." Koerner and Ray were both playing their 12 string guitars with Glover on his harmonicas. Ray also played a very impressive solo of "My Blue Heaven" and even pulled out some lap slide.

After seeing the enthusiastic response from the young audience I am sure KR&G added a new generation of fans to their music tonight. After the show one of those young fans came up to Dave Ray telling him that her father was a big fan of theirs and that his name, coincidentally, was Ray Glover (he is a bartender at the Stardust).

If you get the chance, stop on down at the Times Bar and Grill on Thursday to see Ray and Glover, and watch for the next, all too infrequent, performance of Koerner, Ray and Glover.

(Some of the background material in this review was provided by Dave Ray and can be found, along with a host of other interesting things, by visiting his web page at: http://www.jdray.com/)

This review is copyright © 1998 by Ray Stiles, all rights reserved.

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