Local Current Blog

Dave Ray Avenue to be dedicated in St. Paul in tribute to local folk-blues legend

Portions of Franklin Avenue in St. Paul will be renamed “Dave Ray Avenue” in honor of the late Minnesota folk-blues legend.

Yesterday, the St. Paul City Council approved a resolution, sponsored by Councilmember Russ Stark, that “that Franklin Avenue between Berry and Eustis Streets is hereby co-named Dave Ray Avenue and that appropriate street signage will be placed by the Department of Public Works at the appropriate corners of Franklin Avenue, and Berry and Eustis Streets.” The location was chosen because the James M. Ray Insurance Agency, Ray’s family business that also played home to numerous practice sessions by Ray and other musicians, was located at 2517 Franklin Ave. W.

Though Ray is commonly associated with Minneapolis’s West Bank music scene—best-known for his collaborations with “Spider John” Koerner and Tony Glover—Stark’s resolution highlights Ray’s Capital City roots. “Dave Ray was born and raised in the City of Saint Paul; first developed his music gift there; performed in his home city’s clubs, theaters and festival stages throughout his life, while maintaining a successful second career for many years with his insurance agency on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Curfew Street.”

Ray, who died in 2002 at the age of 59, is remembered as one of the leading lights of Minnesota’s music scene in the second half of the 20th century—particularly in the folk-blues scene of the 1960s. As Stark’s resolution notes, Ray was “one of the great and legendary bluesmen to come out of the 1960s Folk Revival; an artist whose singular vision, voice and guitar style were lauded worldwide, first achieving fame on world stages like the Newport Folk Festival and through legendary recordings on Elektra Records with his seminal blues trio Koerner, Ray & Glover, earning the admiration of peers like Bob Dylan and the Beatles.”

Legacy, a three-disc collection of rare and unreleased recordings by Ray (above), will be released on Oct. 27 on St. Paul’s Red House Records. “Taken together,” writes critic Jeff Burger, “the three CDs suggest that Ray remains seriously underappreciated. Certainly he didn’t get his due during his lifetime, when he was often unable to make ends meet by simply playing his music.”

Listen to David Campbell talk with Glover about Ray’s life and legacy this Sunday on the Current’s Local Show, 6:00-8:00 p.m.