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RIP Tony Glover, Minneapolis folk-blues revival legend

Tony Glover (center) flanked by John Koerner and Dave Ray at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Tony Glover (center) flanked by John Koerner and Dave Ray at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Star Tribune file

Another Minneapolis blues great is gone.

Tony “Little Sun” Glover, who put the West Bank folk scene on the map in the ’60s as a third of the blues trio Koerner, Ray & Glover, died of natural causes on Wednesday at 79.

The group’s 1963 debut, Blues, Rags and Hollers, won them fans from the Beatles and Dylan on down. Mick Jagger would enlist Glover for harmonica lessons; the Doors and the Allman Brothers called him onstage to jam.

Glover was born in Minneapolis in 1939. Influenced by the music of Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson, he picked up the blues harp and started kicking around the Minneapolis blues and folk scene, where he met some kid from up north calling himself “Bob Dylan.” They’d keep in touch even after Dylan headed out to New York to make it big.

In 1963 Glover joined John Koerner and Dave Ray to form the blues trio that Ray would typically refer to as "Koerner and/or Ray and/or Glover." They cut their debut, Blues, Rags and Hollers, in a one-day Milwaukee session. At a moment when much recorded blues was either stiffly reverent or slick and commercial, the album’s raucous, ragged take caught the ear of rockers and loosened up folkies. It’s a historical document that still rocks.

As the ’60s wore on, Glover became an overnight DJ for KDWB-AM in Minneapolis, interviewing big names like Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend. And he was also a prolific music critic and historian, publishing in Paul Nelson’s influential early ’60s folk revival journal The Little Sandy Review. Glover continued to write for publications both national and local (including this one) and he wrote the liner notes for The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert.

In the ’70s Glover formed the band 9 Below 0; they opened for Patti Smith, and she would routinely call Glover onstage whenever she came to town after that. Glover also performed regularly as a duo with Ray at the 400 Bar in the ’80s. After Ray’s death in 2002, Glover formed the trio V2, and he’d sporadically play shows with Koerner as well. At the 2014 Replacements reunion show at St. Paul's Midway Stadium, Paul Westerberg invited Glover onstage to blow during Jimmy Reed’s “Going to New York.” “He’s an actual musician,” Westerberg quipped. And he certainly was.