With five Grammy Awards, 15 nominations, more than 12 million of records sold worldwide and thousands of sold-out performances, blues-rock icon Robert Cray is considered one of the greatest guitarists of his generation; a player whose name is synonymous with a soulful modern blues sound and clean, impeccably phrased guitar work. Rolling Stone credits Cray with reinventing the blues with “distinct razor-sharp guitar playing” that “introduced a new generation of mainstream rock fans to the language and form of the blues” with the release of his Strong Persuader album in 1986.
Since then, Cray has recorded 15 Billboard-charting studio albums and has written or performed with fellow artists including Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and others. Welcomed into the Blues Hall of Fame at age 57, he is the youngest living inductee to receive the prestigious honor. And while he can look back over an acclaimed three-decade career marked by his trademark sound and distinctive playing style, Cray continues to delight fans worldwide by creating impeccably crafted music and embarking on new tours.
“We have been very lucky,” Cray said. “With music becoming mostly digital in recent years and artists not selling the same number of physical records, we’re afforded the luxury of having a great loyal and amazing fan base around the world, allowing a band like ours to continue to work.”
Born in August 1953 in Columbus, Ga., into a military family that moved often, Cray grew up in houses where blues, jazz, gospel, soul and pop music was always playing, and he began playing guitar in his early teens. During junior high in Newport News, Va., he joined his first band, One Way Street, and he soon became an avid record collector. Near the end of his high school years in Tacoma, Wash., Cray was eyeing a career in architecture but had formed a cover band, Steakface, in which he sang and played guitar.
By the time he was 20, Cray had seen his heroes—Albert Collins, Freddie King and Muddy Waters—in concert, and in 1974 moved to Eugene, Ore., where he started the Robert Cray Band. He played college towns up and down the west coast, and enjoyed several years of regional success before signing to Mercury Records in 1982. His major label debut, Bad Influence, appeared that year, followed by False Accusations in 1985.
Cray’s third album, 1986’s Strong Persuader, received a Grammy award; single “Smokin’ Gun” earned wide appeal and name recognition. Cray was among the more modern blues and roots music artists, such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Thorogood, who received wider airplay and MTV video exposure during the late 1980s. The Robert Cray Band opened for major acts such as Eric Clapton (Cray and Clapton became lifelong friends), and Cray sold out large venues as a solo artist well into the 1990s. Cray has subsequently appeared frequently with Clapton on tour and at large guitar festivals such as Clapton’s periodic Crossroads festivals in Chicago.
Fender honored Cray with a signature guitar model, the Robert Cray Stratocaster, in 2003.
The Robert Cray Band’s first live album, Live From Across the Pond, appeared in September 2006. Cray continues to be a prolific recording and touring artist; recent releases include Live at the BBC (2008), This Time (2009), Cookin’ in Mobile (2010) and 16th album Nothin’ but Love (2012).
Visit Robert Cray online at www.robertcray.com.