Dave "Snaker" Ray (August 17, 1943 – November 28, 2002) was an American blues singer and guitarist from St. Paul, Minnesota, who was most notably associated with Spider John Koerner and Tony "Little Sun" Glover in the early Sixties folk revival. Together, the three released albums under the name Koerner, Ray & Glover. They gained notice with their album Blues, Rags and Hollers, originally released by Audiophile in 1963 and tre-released by Elektra Records later that year.
Born James David Ray, he was the eldest child of James and Nellie Ray. In this teens, he was inspired by a Segovia concert, and his parents gave him a gut-string guitar. He and his brother Tom took classical guitar lessons for about a year. Ray's youngest brother, Max, started on the clarinet and then moved on to the saxophone; his mother, Nellie, played the organ well into her eighties. On occasion Tom would play piano and Max saxophone in various iterations of Ray's local bands. Max Ray went on to have a successful musical career with the Wallets and Gondwana.
In 1967, Ray was in a motorcycle accident and broke his wrist. While in a cast, he relearned to play the guitar with a flat pick. The years from 1963 to 1971 were prolific for Koerner, Ray, and Glover. Either solo or in some combination of the trio, they released at least one album a year. The group never rehearsed together or did much at all together. Ray liked to call the group, "Koerner and/or Ray and/or Glover".
In 1969, Ray teamed up with Will Donicht as the band Bamboo, to record an electric folk-rock album in New York for Elektra Records. The album featured original and creative lyrics and instrumentals. Ray became disillusioned with Elektra and the commercial recording industry in general and was determined to set up his own recording studio and become a record producer. With funding from his first wife's aunt, Jane Westley, Ray built a recording studio, "Sweet Jane Ltd.", in Cushing, Minnesota, in the early 1970s. Sweet Jane became a meeting spot for well- and lesser-known blues musicians. Junior Wells and Bonnie Raitt both recorded there. The Minneapolis-based Willie and the Bees recorded an album with Ray. At this point, Ray had already released a number of albums both solo and with Koerner and Glover. Ray released his own solo album, Kidman, at SJL in 1977.
In the late 1970s, playing and recording music became a less viable option for Ray. As a stopgap measure, he bought into his father's insurance business, James Ray Associates. Determined to continue playing music, Ray lined up steady gigs at local bars and restaurants for after hours. Glover joined him on many of these jobs. For almost a decade, Ray led this double life of insurance agent and blues musician. He released a few live recordings and studio albums during this time.
In the late 1980s Ray sold the insurance business to a large underwriter. Ray played gigs and festivals around the country. Willie Murphy said after Ray's death, "It's too bad he had to die when he did, he was kind of getting the hang of it." Ray devoted many hours to diligent practice, running through the paces of guitar greats like Charlie Christian and Freddie Green.
In 1998, Ray and Glover joined with Camile Baudoin and Reggie Scanlan of the Radiators to form a short-lived band, the Back Porch Rockers, which released the album By the Water in 2000.
Ray's last album, which he sold on his website, was A Hollowbody Experience, by the 6L6 Band, which featured Ray on guitar and vocals, Jeff Dagenhardt on guitar and Dave Kasik on bass. Dagenhardt and Kasik both reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 6L6 CD was released in 2002, the year Dave Ray died. Fittingly, the last track was "It's All Over Now."
Ray was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2002. He died on Thanksgiving day, November 28, at his home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He had chosen not to take any aggressive treatment for his cancer. He continued playing until shortly before his death, notably at a blues folk conference in Princeton, New Jersey.
information and photo credit: wikipedia.org