Had a nice relaxing Thanksgiving here. A long walk in the woods, some good beer, a heap of good food (a chanterelle and wild rice stuffing as the centerpiece) and a really nice Cline zinfandel we had left over from our california trip (a wine you can only get at the winery; I was skeptical when they said it has hints of eucalyptus, but you can really taste it and it actually works. At the time I thought eucalyptus in a wine? but I was happily proven ignorant on that one). But really the best of the day was late in the evening, splitting a bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout with some pumpkin pie by the fire. That beer is pretty stunning, bursting with bourbon and vanilla and butter–quite the taste treat with dessert.
But I didn’t really start this post to talk thanksgiving. I’ve been reminiscing about the guitar legend Dave “Snaker” Ray as today, Nov. 28, marks the 6th anniversary of his death. Dave has been an essential part of my musical world view for many, many years and I always get nostalgic this time of year. He died on Thanksgiving day in 2002, and I remember hearing the news over the internet via my favorite radio station KFAI. Ray was a quintessential part of the Minneapolis music landscape. At the time, I was feeling very out of place in Florida and it made me really miss Minnesota, so this time of year always resonates with memories of Dave.
Ray was born August 17, 1943 in Saint Paul. He was most famous for his early 60s recordings with the Minneapolis trio Koerner, Ray, and Glover, a group whose influence on musicians was profound, including a strong affect on the likes of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, and Beck among many others. His 12-string guitar playing was seemingly simple but ultimately inimitable. In the early 70’s he developed Sweet Jane recording studios in Cushing, Minnesota recording the likes of Junior Wells and Willie Murphy, and most known for the early revolutionary recordings of Bonnie Raitt that really changed the way live studio recording was approached. In the 80s and 90s he earned a living by running an insurance company, but he continued to play and record until the day he died. I fondly remember seeing him in the basement of Jitters in northeast Minneapolis, just a few blocks from my house, where he would play and tell stories with Tony Glover no matter the size of the crowd. I remember a few cold nights being able to sit with just a dozen or so people and listen to this unparalleled guitar virtuoso.
For a listening tribute, of course it’s worth listening to Koerner, Ray, and Glover’s 1963 landmark album Blues, Rags, and Hollers. It’s an album that’s always worth listening to. But for my money, I think both his playing and his voice got better as he got older. His 1993 album with Tony Glover The Picture Has Faded is one of my favorites as is his 1998 solo Snake Eyes. Whatever the case, Dave was one of the best and it’s worth searching out any of his music.
Dave, we still miss you!