Open ears and an open mind are the essence of singer, guitarist and songwriter Robert Cray’s approach to writing, recording and playing music. He has created a sound that rises from American roots and arrives today both fresh and familiar. In just over 40 years Cray and his band have recorded 20 studio releases, 15 of which have been on the Billboard charts, and played bars, concert halls, festivals and arenas around the world. There are five Grammys with Cray’s name on them, and he has a suitcase full of W.C. Handy blues awards. Four years ago Cray was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
Growing up in the Northwest, Robert Cray listened to the gospel of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, Bobby Bland’s soul, Jimi Hendrix’s rock guitar and the Beatles pop sounds. He would bring all of the influences into play throughout his career, but his teenage band was captivated by Southern Soul and the blues. “In the early days of the band we were getting back into O.V. Wright and paying attention to my favorite blues players; Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Albert King and especially Albert Collins,” Cray says.
With the group’s 1980 debut release, Who’s Been Talkin’, word about the Cray Band began to spread across the Northwest and down into California. Playing packed bars and roadhouses the band was thrilling. Blues and soul fans showed up religiously, but those steamy raucous sets also drew crowds whose tastes in music ranged from rock to funk and jazz.
Also among the Cray Band admirers were other musicians. John Lee Hooker put his appreciation into action. “The first time we played with Hooker was in Montana. We were opening the set and he was playing solo,” Cray recalls. “We’d never met him before but he just walked on stage and started playing with us. We dug the hell out of the guy, and after that we were friends.”
The Cray Band’s beginnings brought the sounds of its mentors into the mainstream, even taking the music of John Lee Hooker, Etta James and Albert Collins to a larger, younger audience. But no one knew how broad the band’s audience would be until the Cray Band opened the ears of rock radio programmers. With the 1986 release of Strong Persuader the band’s tunes were put in heavy rotation on mega rock stations across the nation. The first hit, Smoking Gun, was followed by I Guess I Showed Her and Right Next Door (Because of Me).
Following the path of fame taken by blues-based rockers like Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Cray became a sensation, leading his band in concerts at large arenas and rock festivals.
During the 90s the Robert Cray Band was featured in concert with artists like Clapton, the Stones, John Lee Hooker, BB King and Bonnie Raitt, who declares the band leader is “an original; he’s passionate, he’s a bad ass and puts on one of the best shows you’ll ever see.”
it is extraordinary for musicians to thrive over four decades, and the Robert Cray Band is just that, an extraordinary story of success. Texas blues artist Jimmie Vaughan sums up Robert Cray’s singularity and success simply when he says, “He’s got one foot in the future and one foot in the old stuff.”
Blues Hall of Famer!
Sunday, October 1, 2017 7pm
Tickets: $49 - $64
Singer, guitarist, songwriter Robert Cray is a multiple Grammy winner and Blues Hall of Famer. After 40 years, the vibrancy of the Cray Band’s rocking, rootsy blues, soul-filled ballads and timeless R&B, still sound fresh. Cray’s Stratocaster solos sing, while his voice has grown richer and wiser. Live The Robert Cray band will deliver a passionate and riveting guitar-driven set!