Being in the backseat of a car with a girl is about the greatest thing ever. It’s an adventure that involves the electric states of mystery, romance, and challenge. Among other things, it’s where I first learned about Spider John Koerner. At the end of one of those adventures, a girl gave me an album, Spider Blues, with a picture on the cover of this cheroot-chomping guy, behind sunglasses, who looked like everything my 14-year-old self wanted to become. Cool, independent, and carefree. It turned out, he was all three.
There were big radio station letters stenciled on the cover that certified that this record was a real artifact. It was a part of a bigger world that I knew little about and it signaled and sealed my transition from kid to potential cool guy. Spider John was/is a guitar player, bluesman, and he’s from Minneapolis. And he still lives there. It blew my mind that he was a real person, not someone from New York or Chicago or Mississippi.
His tunes are spunky, soulful, and funny and, back then, they took me to places I had never before imagined. With Dave Ray and Tony Glover, he was making music in bars just across town. Granted, it was a part of town I had never been to, but that would change. Now it’s years later and I’ve heard him play many times, seen him place his joke hat on his head and tell what he terms existential jokes, I’ve asked him stupid questions, and never tire of the tunes that he has pulled out of his hat.
Sometimes I Can’t Help Myself
A seven-string guitar, harmonica rack, and a stomping foot, bring it all to life. Mostly folky blues with Ray and Glover, but later he teamed up with Willie Murphy and some guys to make an electric something that was louder, wider, and weirder, but still Spider John. He’s been at the ’64 Newport Folk Festival and at the Triangle Bar. He’s been an influence on Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, a million others, and is still out there playing. A real guy, a real hero, scuffling and singing, reading the paper in the morning, sneaking into the house late at night, searching the sky when it’s dark, and floating on the lake in the sun. Just let him play. He’s kept the faith and isn’t giving it up anytime soon.