Tony Glover Brings It on Home

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Tony “Little Sun” Glover, consummate music writer and musician since 1962, played harmonica with the legendary and influential folk blues trio Koerner, Ray and Glover until the mid-’60s. Since then, he’s played at reunions of the group and in a duo with the late Dave Ray. During the ’70s, he played with the electric band 9 Below 0_. Ray and Glover recorded four duo albums and were featured on others, winning several Minnesota Music Awards.

In the late ’60s, Glover hosted an “underground” overnight music radio show on KDWB, for which he interviewed musicians such as Pete Townsend, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton and Robbie Robertson. A music journalist for more than three decades, Glover has written for music publications such as The Little Sandy Review, Sing Out!, Hullabaloo, Creem and Rolling Stone. Glover authored three best-selling harmonica instruction books and was awarded the ASCAP Deems Taylor award for his booklet notes on the seminal Bob Dylan historic release, “Live 1966—The Royal Albert Hall Concert.” He co-authored “Blues with a Feeling: The Little Walter Story,” which was published in 2002, after five years of research and collaboration. Glover produced the 1966 documentary, “Blues, Rags and Hollers: The Koerner, Ray and Glover Story” and was featured in the 2004 Spider John Koerner documentary, “Been Here, Done That.”

Glover performs with his current band V3, with guitarist Galen Michaelson, (a friend since the early ’60s and a member of 9 Below 0) and singer/keyboardist John Rodine (of Liquor Pigs and House of Mercy). Ray and Glover’s last recordings together were for Rodine’s album.

Was Little Walter your first influence?
It was Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Jimmy Reed—all those guys all at the same time. I was hearing that stuff on late night border radio. They had stations in Mexico that would kick out megawatts of power, more than the FCC would allow in this country. You’d hear Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Sonny Boy and Jimmy Reed. Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson were the main ones. Walter was an electric player with electric bands. He was jazz influenced. Sonny Boy was an acoustic player, more of a funky down-home cat.

you kind of took elements of each of those styles? How did you approach it?
I learned how to play by playing along to records because there weren’t any musicians around that I knew. By learning to imitate, you end up absorbing a lot of stuff. You mix it all together and, hopefully, eventually you come up with your own style.

These people of the Folk Society knew this kid who played 12-string guitar and said, “You should hear this guy. He plays like Leadbelly; you play like Sonny Terry. You guys should get together.” I went over to their apartment one night and, standing out in the hall, I heard this early Leadbelly song coming from the other side. There was this kid with a guitar, he had blonde hair, red apple cheeks, he was maybe 18 or 19. He had Leadbelly really pretty much down.

He was working at a coffeehouse in Dinkytown called the Coffee Break. When I first went there, Dave [Ray] was playing [Leadbelly] on the counter, sitting on a chair like four feet off the floor near this cash register where people would go to get their cup of coffee. All these high school and college kids were dancing to it. It was great. I started playing there with him.

He moved to New York, started to get a rep around; he was pretty good. After about six months, I was missing playing with him and went to visit him. He said he had this buddy coming into town. It was like 7 o’clock or 8 o’clock Saturday morning, there was this banging on the door and it was [Spider John] Koerner. We wound up spending the afternoon running around, hitting the bars, played some music and we were all doing pretty much the same thing. That’s the first time we got together. That summer Dave came back, started playing at the Coffee Break again. I played with him there. Not long after that, Koerner also came back to go to the U. So we’d all get together at afterhours parties and things.

After you recorded Blues, Rags, and Hollers, did you tour?
We’d play at folk festivals. We played at Newport in ’64. We played Philadelphia in late ’63. They were having “New Folks,” this last-minute thing added on after the regular Saturday night concert. It was raucous and fun. That was the first time our group played to a large crowd. We were fired up. We were loaded for bear, and we came out and kicked ass. Not everybody stayed because it was a long night. But the ones that stayed were like, “Oh, wow!” It was really encouraging, like, “People do like this. It’s not just a Minneapolis thing.”

You had really eclectic shows and interviews with musicians. I saw the photo of you with Jimi Hendrix in the film. What was it like to interview him?
It was backstage at the auditorium, not a lot of time. He was a consummate musician. You know how some guys make whatever they do look easy? His fingers would just be dancing, kind of gliding on the board. The thing is the sound he got, he got with just the guitar and the wa-wa pedal. Nowadays, they’ve got all this stuff to try and emulate his sound and they’re close, but it came from him. It’s not the equivalent.

And Patti Smith, I heard about you working with her, bringing her to Hamline . . .
I’d met her in New York. She’d written an article about the devil in music, a fascinating, well-written article. I wanted to try to write an article on her. Bob Neuwirth—he’s the guy whose legs you see on Highway 61 holding a camera, friend of Dylan’s—gave me her phone number. I figured I’d do a one-hour interview. She was so fascinating, such a good talker, that I ended up doing like, 20 cassette tapes of interviewing.

I knew the woman booking for the Walker and the Guthrie, Sue Weil, and talked her into having Patti Smith do her first reading at the Walker. Then Patti started doing the music thing. First time she played with her band here was at the Guthrie. I had a band called 9 Below 0_. We were the front act for her. Dave Ray came out and joined her for a few numbers at the end. So it was Ray and Glover plus 9 Below 0_. That was a lot of fun.

And V3?
V3 is recent. To me, an ideal trio is piano, guitar and harp. Our music is a mix of country and old-timey blues, American roots music. I don’t see a lot of distinction between styles. I like a Hank Williams tune as much as a Jimmy Reed tune. Any kind of music that’s done with soul and feeling is fair grist.

Do you have favorites from interviews and writing?
I did an interview with Pete Townsend early on that was on the radio. It started out to be about music, it ended up being about everything—science fiction writers, philosophy … he was a very erudite kind of cat and well spoken.

I liked the liner notes I did for the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series box. It was interesting to put it all in a chronology of what Bob was doing at a certain period when he was recording and touring. It’s amazing he was able to get as much done as he did, considering all that was going on.

Do you have a favorite performance memory?
Sitting in with the Allman Brothers was pretty intense. I sat in with them one tune at Fillmore East, when I was living in New York. I’d done articles on them and they knew I played. But boy, those guys were so loud. The only way I could tell I was playing—I could feel my lips buzzing. I couldn’t hardly hear myself. Boy, they were good. When Duane was in that the band, there was nobody who could beat them. He was another one of those consummate musicians, totally dedicated to music and playing it right. He had a real passion for it and intensity. He could mix down-in-the-alley blues with John Coltrane space explorations shit and make it all work together. I had this real bad headache. I ended up lying on the floor backstage listening to them. They played for maybe three hours. I didn’t have a headache anymore; I was cured. It was like the music was just so damn good, it didn’t leave room for anything else.

V3 plays Dunn Bros. coffee Oct. 22. (For more info, email nadle001@umn.edu)

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