Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Koerner, Ray and Glover - One Foot In The Groove - 1997.


In today's climate of a blues band seemingly on every corner with "the next Stevie Ray Vaughan" being touted every other minute, it's hard to imagine a time when being a white blues singer was considered kind of a novelty. But in those heady times of the early '60s and the folk and blues revival, that's exactly how it was. But into this milieu came three young men who knew it, understood it, and could play and sing it; their names were Koerner, Ray and Glover. They were folkies, to be sure, but the three of them did a lot -- both together and separately -- to bring the blues to a white audience and in many ways, set certain things in place that have become standards of the Caucasian presentation of the music over the years.

The three of them were college students attending the University of Minnesota, immediately drawn together by their common interests in the music and by the close-knit folk community that existed back then. As was their wont, they all decided to append their names with colorful nicknames; there was "Spider" John Koerner, the Jesse Fuller and Big Joe Williams of the group, Dave "Snaker" Ray, a 12-string-playing Leadbelly aficionado, and Tony "Little Sun" Glover on harmonica, holding up the Sonny Terry end of things. This simple little act of reinvention resonates up to the present day, with myriads of white practitioners throwing their mundane appellations out the window to recast themselves as something along the lines of Juke Joint Slim & the Boogie Blues Blasters.

They worked in various configurations within the trio unit, often doing solo turns and duets, but seldom all three of them together. Their breakthrough album, Blues, Rags and Hollers, released in 1963, sent out a clarion call that this music was just as accessible to white listeners -- and especially players -- as singing and strumming several choruses of "Aunt Rhody." While recording two excellent follow-ups for Elektra, both Koerner and Ray released equally fine solo albums. Tony Glover, for his part, put together one of the very first instructional books on how to play blues harmonica (Blues Harp) around this time, and its excellence and conciseness still make it the how-to book of choice for all aspiring harmonica players. Both Koerner and Ray still maintain an active performing schedule and every so often, the three of them get back together for a one-off concert.

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