John Koerner and Tony Glover get together only sporadically since Dave Ray's passing -- enough to stomp out a new live CD.
As Tony Glover recalled it, the 400 Bar was the third in a line of clubs Koerner, Ray & Glover frequented on the West Bank in Minneapolis during the 1960s, when the acoustic folk/blues trio recorded for Elektra Records and influenced a who's-who of rock royalty.
"We started at the Triangle Bar, and John [Koerner] would go across the street to the Viking Bar during our breaks, so we eventually started playing at the Viking," the group's harmonica player remembered. "The same thing happened between the Viking and the 400 Bar. We sort of kept moving to the places John liked to go to enjoy a quiet beer."
Flash forward four decades to 2006, when the two surviving members of Koerner, Ray & Glover quietly started playing shows again every Thursday at the one West Bank club still around from that era. Such is the magic on Koerner's and Glover's new CD, "Live @ the 400 Bar," which will bring the old bandmates back to the bar for a release party Saturday.
The 13-song collection -- issued on ex-Prince & the Revolution drummer Bobby Z's Copycats Entertainment label -- was culled from two shows in January 2006.
"We sort of made a record without even knowing it," quipped Glover, 69, who did not hear the recordings until Bobby Z expressed interest in releasing them.
Calling from a jaunt along the East Coast last week, the ever-nomadic Koerner admitted that he still hasn't heard them.
"I trust Tony on those things, and I remember them being pretty nice little shows," the 70-year-old singer/guitarist said.
Tom Sullivan, manager/co-owner of the 400 Bar, remembers the gigs being better than "pretty nice." It was Sullivan who contacted Devils Workshop studio owner and sound engineer Chad Weis (Mason Jennings, Bad Plus) to record the shows -- "just for us to get to listen to," Sullivan said.
Folding chairs were laid out to create a quiet, cozy atmosphere. The guys went on early to attract a post-work crowd. To add to the vibe, these were some of the first gigs the duo played since their trio partner, Dave Ray, passed away on Thanksgiving morning 2002.
"There was obviously something missing without Dave," Sullivan said, "but you could tell he was kind of there in spirit, and they still have a chemistry."
The duo focused mostly on songs from Koerner's folky repertoire, including "Black Dog" and "Red Apple Juice." Glover contributed the Sonny Terry nugget "Walking Blues," and they finished it off with Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene."
"There are still some songs we leave alone, because I have too many weird feelings doing them without Dave," Glover said. "One of the things that made the three of us interesting was the way Dave and I were the blues guys, and John had the folk background, and we made it all fit."
Because of that dichotomy, Glover and Koerner rarely performed together without Ray prior to his death. One of the few times they did, Glover remembered, was at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival (the one where Dylan went electric).
"Anytime anybody is up for paying Tony and I to play together, I'll happily do it," Koerner said. "We didn't have the kind of relationship that Dave and Tony had, coming from the same area of blues. But we still have a lot of history together.
"A lot of good history," he sharply added.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658