Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Elektra Records: Down to Louisiana

Unknown today except to audiophiles, roots music aficionados, and the enlightened; Koerner, Ray, and Glover’s “Blues, Rags, and Hollers” was probably one of the most influential blues albums to be birthed during the folk revival of the 1960s. During the spring of 1963, three students of the University of Minnesota drove all night to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a date with destiny. The 300 mile jaunt on pre-Interstate highways was even more harrowing due to the foggy conditions that plagued the trio. Later that Sunday morning, ‘Spider” John Koerner, Dave “Snaker” Ray, and Tony “Little Sun” Glover embarked on an all day recording session that produced this monumental.

With only 300 copies pressed on the Audiophile label, the record caught the attention of Jac Holzman at Elektra and it was released by this up-and-coming independent label during the summer of 1963. Some differences exist between the two versions of the album as Koerner, Ray, and Glover overfilled both sides with music, as the album contained 20 songs.

Since the tracks went as close to the label as mechanically possible, many turntables in 1963 couldn’t play the final tracks from each side as the tone arm automatically lifted before the song finished. The album also contained nearly 51 minutes of music, and anything over 42 minutes tended to increase fidelity problems. To fix these issues, Elektra eliminated four of the cuts. In addition, Holzman didn’t like the original stereo mix and the reissue was released monaurally.

I took the photo of this place in Louisiana in 2012.
You might find a mojo hand there.

During The Beatles’ tour of America, the album caught the attention of John Lennon who considered it one of his favorites. Future Elektra recording artist Jim Morrison of The Doors believed it to be one of the best albums released during the period. Although all three musicians are credited as trio, that wasn’t the set-up for the album. Only one track of the reissue had the participation of all three. On today’s cut, “Down to Louisiana,” which was written by Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters, Dave Ray sings and plays guitar while accompanied by Tony “Little Sun” Glover on the harmonica.

It needs to be noted that many who learned to play harmonica in the late 1960s and ‘70s studied under the tutelage of Tony Glover. His Oak Publications manual Blues Harp is by far one of the best guides to play harmonica. I picked up my copy in 1974 and still have it as a prized possession. I owe this blues harp master a debt of gratitude.

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