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Robert Cray (born August 1, 1953) is an American blues guitarist and vocalist. According to the book Guinness Rockopedia, "the 1980s 'blues revival' revolved around Cray. His blend of soul vocals and blues guitar work won approval from the 'old guard' ... and a younger audience". Cray is a multiple Grammy Award winner, and many of his releases have achieved platinum record certification.

Career

Cray was born in Columbus, Georgiamarker and started playing guitar in his early teens. He attended Denbigh High School in Newport News, Virginiamarker, where his love of the blues and soul music flourished as he started collecting records. Originally, he wanted to become an architect, but around the same time he began to study architectural design, he formed a local band named "Steakface", described as "the best band from Lakewood you never heard of". Cray's guitar and vocals contributed greatly to Steakface's set list of cover songs by Jimi Hendrix, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Fleetwood Mac, The Grease Band, Blodwyn Pig, Jethro Tull, Spirit and the Faces.

By the age of twenty, Cray had seen his heroes Albert Collins, Freddie King and Muddy Waters in concert and decided to form his own band; they began playing college towns on the West Coast of the United States. Cray and his long-time bassist Richard Cousins had met in 1974. They soon joined up with Collins as his backing unit, before branching out on their own. In the 1978 film National Lampoon's Animal House, Cray was the uncredited bassist in the house party band, Otis Day and the Knights. With keyboardist Peter Boe and drummer Tom Murphy, they launched the Robert Cray Band in 1980 with Who's Been Talkin'. It was recorded during constant touring in the United States in 1978. The record was initially shelved for two years, being eventually issued by the short-lived Tomato label (whose license was picked up by Atlantic Records in the US, and Charly Records in the UK.

After several years of regional success, Cray was signed to Mercury Records in 1982. It was the connection with the producing and songwriting team of Bruce Bromberg and Dennis Walker at Hightone Records that helped to create the mold-breaking music of Bad Influence (1983) and False Accusations (1985). In 1984, The Robert Cray Band completed their first European tour to critical acclaim. Cray's participation with Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland on Showdown! (1985, Alligator) and his own 1986 album Strong Persuader, again produced by Walker, both received Grammy Awards, while the crossover single "Smoking Gun" gave him wider appeal and name recognition. During 1986 Cray played 170 concerts, including his seventh European tour since 1984, building on his increasing reputation in the UK.
Tina Turner on tour with Robert Cray, Wembley Stadium, 18 June, 1987
In 1986 Cray appeared in the Chuck Berry documentary Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll. One month later Cray won six W.C. Handy Awards at Anerica's seventh National Blues ceremony. April 1987 saw Strong Persuader reach number 13 in the US Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first blues album to reach the US Top 20 since 1972. The album went on to sell over one million copies. By now, Cray was an opening act for such major stars as Eric Clapton (who remains a friend to this day), and sold out larger venues as a solo artist. Cray appeared alongside John Lee Hooker on his album Boom Boom, playing the guitar solo in the song "Same Old Blues Again". He was also featured on the 1989 Hooker album, The Healer; he played a guitar solo on the song "Baby Lee".

Sales ticked over for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1988), Midnight Stroll (1990), I Was Warned (1992) and Shame + A Sin (1993), dwindling only with 1995's Some Rainy Morning. The title song from Don't Be Afraid of the Dark won Cray his third Grammy Award, and he guested on Clapton's Journeyman, as well as performing at Clapton's eighteen shows at the Royal Albert Hallmarker in London. In 1991 Cray was selected to present Howlin' Wolf's induction trophy to Wolf's widow, Lilly Burnett, at the sixth annual Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker Awards. Later that year Cray took part in the Newport Jazz Festival with B. B. King and John Lee Hooker.

Cray was invited to play at the 'Guitar Legends' concerts in Sevillemarker, Spain at the 1992 Expo, where he played a signature track, "Phone Booth". Cray later joined Boz Scaggs, Johnny Rivers and The Doobie Brothers with Michael McDonald to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Memphis Horns in Memphismarker, Tennesseemarker.

Cray signalled a new direction in 1997, with his soul album, Sweet Potato Pie. After switching to Rykodisc in the late 1990s Cray released Take Your Shoes Off in 1999, and Shoulda Been Home in 2001. Take Your Shoes Off was another Grammy winner as Best Contemporary Blues Album.In 1997 Cray received the Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "SRV Shuffle".

Cray continues to record and tour. He appeared at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, and was a supporting act on Eric Clapton's 2006-2007 world tour. In Fargo, North Dakotamarker, he joined Clapton for "Crossroads", the Robert Johnson song that Cream once recorded. At Expo 2008marker Cray appeared along with Bob Dylan in Zaragozamarker, Spain.

Equipment and members of the Robert Cray Band

The Robert Cray Band
Cray has generally played Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars; there are two signature Robert Cray Stratocaster models available from Fender. The Robert Cray Custom Shop Stratocaster is made in the United States, in the Fender custom shop and is identical to the guitars that Cray currently plays. The Robert Cray Standard Stratocaster is a less-expensive model made in Fender's Ensenadamarker, Mexico plant. He is also known to use a Matchless Clubman head with a matching cabinet, sometimes paired with a Fender amp such as a Blackface Super Reverb or Custom Shop Vibro King with a special surf green tolex. Robert Cray also has played live with a custom James Trussart Telecaster.

Cray's current band comprises:

Discography

Albums

Year Album U.S. Top Blues Albums Chart U.S. Billboard 200 Chart UK Albums Chart
1980 Who's Been Talkin'
-
-
-
1983 Bad Influence
-
#143
-
1985 False Accusations
-
#141
#68
1985 Showdown!

(recorded with Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland)
-
-
-
1986 Strong Persuader
-
#13
#34
1988 Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
-
#32
#13
1990 Midnight Stroll
-
#51
#19
1992 I Was Warned
-
#103
#29
1993 Shame + A Sin
-
#143
#48
1995 Some Rainy Morning
#2
#127
#63
1997 Sweet Potato Pie
#3
#184
-
1999 Take Your Shoes Off
#2
#181
-
2001 Shoulda Been Home
#2
-
-
2003 Time Will Tell
#3
-
-
2005 Twenty
#2
-
-
2007 Live From Across The Pond
#1
-
-
2008 Live At The BBC
#7
-
-
2009 This Time
-
-


Compilation albums and re-issues

  • In Concert - live album - 1999
  • Who's Been Talkin' (re-released as Too Many Cooks in 1990, and re-issued as Who's Been Talkin' in 2001)
  • Heavy Picks - The Robert Cray Band Collection - 1999 - U.S. Top Blues Albums #9
  • The Best Of Robert Cray edition of 20th Century Masters / The Millennium Collection - 2002 - U.S. Top Blues Albums #11


Singles

Year Title U.S. Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart UK Singles Chart
1986 "Smoking Gun"
#2
#22
-
1987 "I Guessed I Showed Her"
#28
-
-
1987 "Right Next Door (Because of Me)"
#27
#80
#50
1987 "Nothin' But A Woman"
-
-
-
1988 "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
#4
#74
-
1988 "Night Patrol"
-
-
-
1989 "Acting This Way"
#24
-
-
1990 "Consequences"
#32
-
-
1990 "The Forecast (Calls for Pain)"
#11
-
-
1992 "Just a Loser"
#33
-
-
1993 "I Hate Taxes"
-
-
-
1996 "Baby Lee"

(John Lee Hooker with Robert Cray)
-
-
#65


See also



References



External links




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