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Subject: Blues Musician Tony Glover (Koerner, Ray & Glover)

Dies at 79
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Date Posted: Thursday, May 30, 07:26:57am

Minnesota blues hero Tony Glover, an influence on Dylan and the Stones, dies at 79

He was the harmonica player Mick Jagger enlisted for a lesson, and the Doors, Patti Smith and Beck all invited on stage to perform with them in Minneapolis; the Minnesota music hero honored by both Bob Dylan and the Replacements in concerts at St. Paul’s Midway Stadium; the writer and musicologist who penned blues tomes, magazine articles and Dylan liner notes.

To the close friends and family mourning Tony Glover this week, he was also just an ultracool, storied but laid-back guy they relished hanging around.

Glover died Wednesday afternoon of natural causes after being hospitalized since May 13. He was 79.

Using the bluesman pseudonym “Little Sun,” Glover made his earliest and best-known mark on music in the early-1960s acoustic blues and folk group Koerner, Ray & Glover. The trio’s three albums for Elektra Records — especially their 1963 debut “Blues, Rags & Hollers” — were cited by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Doors, Bonnie Raitt and many more as an influence on their music.

In a 2002 interview shortly before his longtime bandmate Dave “Snaker” Ray lost his cancer battle, Glover said, “Ragged but right; that’s what we always aimed for.”

A Minneapolis native who grew up loving Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Leadbelly alongside Ray (his classmate at University High School in Dinkytown), Glover became emblematic of the white kids whose reverence of African-American blues musicians shaped rock music through much of the 1960s.

“If three white kids from the Midwest could make a record that sounds that black and deep and soulful, that really was inspirational,” Rolling Stone’s esteemed senior editor David Fricke told the Star Tribune. “It became a foundation for so much of what came after it.”

Glover and Ray continued to perform and record together up through Ray’s passing. In the 1980s they opened for the likes of B.B. King and John Lee Hooker and kept a house gig at the 400 Bar that brought new life to Minneapolis’ old West Bank music scene. Another mainstay of that scene and era, Willie Murphy, died in January.

In the 1990s, Ray and Glover recorded albums for the hip indie-rock labels Rough Trade and Tim/Kerr and were championed by younger trendsetters like Lucinda Williams and Beck, each of whom asked them to perform at their early First Avenue concerts.

The duo would also intermittently rejoin with Spider John Koerner, now the sole survivor of their legendary trio. Koerner is currently traveling abroad but checked in back home to hear the sad news.

Midway honors

Glover’s reputation among other musicians and musicheads extended well past his own musicianship.

He brought a hip veneer to top 40 radio station KDWB as a late-night host in the late-’60s, for which he landed interviews with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend when they performed in Minneapolis. He also wrote articles for Rolling Stone, Creem and Crawdaddy magazines in the 1960s and ’70s that helped prototype rock journalism.

Glover also became a leading commentator on the music of Dylan, whom he first met as a University of Minnesota “student” and later hung out with in New York, including a trip together to visit a hospitalized Woody Guthrie in 1963. He penned liner notes for the landmark Dylan concert recording “Live 1966: The ‘Royal Albert Hall’ Concerts” and is featured throughout Martin Scorsese’s definitive Dylan docuseries “No Direction Home.”

Dylan, in turn, wrote of “One Foot in the Groove,” a 1996 Koerner, Ray & Glover album, “Exactly like you’d think it would be, stunning. Every time they play the lights shine.”

During a Midway Stadium concert in 2005 — not far from the house where Glover and his wife lived in St. Paul — Dylan mumbled a shout-out to his old friend on stage and visited with him backstage. A decade later in the same stadium, Paul Westerberg invited Glover to play harmonica in Jimmy Reed’s “Going to New York” during the Replacements’ lone hometown reunion concert.

While he also took on the arduous task of learning to play sitar during a brief relocation to Berkeley, Calif., Glover was steadfast about blues harmonica. That led to him writing three instructional books and co-authoring a 2002 biography of blues music’s most revered harp blower, “Blues With a Feeling: The Little Walter Story.”

His writing duties also included more liner notes for albums by John Lee Hooker, John Hammond, Lazy Bill Lucas, Willie & the Bees, the Jayhawks and many more.

After Ray’s death, Glover kept up appearances on Twin Cities stages with a new trio, V3, featuring Galen Michaelson and Jon Rodine. He also reiterated his folkier side in a Woody Guthrie tribute show that also starred Charlie Maguire and Pop Wagner.

Glover and Koerner sporadically performed together again during the late-’00s, including a semiregular return to the West Bank gig that led to the 2009 album “Koerner & Glover: Live at the 400 Bar.”

Looking back on his 40- to 50-year relationship with his Koerner, Ray & Glover bandmates in 2002, the blues stalwart said their connection was more about a love for the music than it was friendship.

“I can probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve gotten together socially, where it wasn’t related to a gig or something work-related,” Glover said. The upside to that, he added, “is that when we do get together, it’s always fun. That may be part of our chemistry.”


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