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Robert Cray in concert, 2007
|Birth name||Robert William Cray|
|Also known as||Night Train Clemons|
|Born||August 1, 1953|
Columbus, Georgia, U.S.
|Genres||Blues, blues rock|
|Labels||Mercury, Vanguard, Nozzle|
Early life and career
Robert Cray was born on August 1, 1953, in Columbus, Georgia, while his father was stationed at Fort Benning. Cray's musical beginnings go back to when he was a student at Denbigh High School in Newport News, Virginia. While there, he played in his first band, The One-Way Street. His family eventually settled in the Tacoma, Washington, area. There, he attended Lakes High School in Lakewood, Washington.
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. In the late 1970s he lived in Eugene, Oregon, where he formed the Robert Cray Band and collaborated with Curtis Salgado in the Cray-Hawks. In the 1978 film National Lampoon's Animal House, Cray was the uncredited bassist in the house party band Otis Day and the Knights.
Cray released the album Who's Been Talkin' on Tomato Records in 1980. Two albums on HighTone Records in the mid-1980s, Bad Influence and False Accusations, were moderately successful in the United States and in Europe, where he was building a reputation as a live artist. Cray was signed to Mercury Records and in 1986 released his fourth album, Strong Persuader, produced by Dennis Walker, which received a Grammy Award, while the crossover single "Smokin' Gun" gave him wider appeal and name recognition. Under the pseudonym "Night Train Clemons", he recorded with Ted Hawkins in 1986. He was invited by Keith Richards to join the backing band for Chuck Berry in the 1987 film, Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll, directed by Taylor Hackford.
By now, Cray was an opening act for such major stars as Eric Clapton and sold out larger venues as a solo artist. Cray has generally played Fender guitars (Telecasters and Stratocasters) and there are two signature Robert Cray Stratocasters models available from Fender. The Robert Cray Custom Shop Stratocaster is made in the U.S. in the Fender custom shop and is identical to the guitars that Cray currently plays, while the Robert Cray Standard Stratocaster is a less-expensive model made in Fender's Ensenada, Mexico plant.
Cray had the opportunity to play alongside John Lee Hooker on his album Boom Boom, playing the guitar solo in the song "Same Old Blues Again". He is also featured on the Hooker album, The Healer; he plays a guitar solo on the song "Baby Lee". The entire Robert Cray Band backs Hooker on the title track of Hooker's 1992 album Mr. Lucky, where Cray plays lead guitar, sings, and banters with Hooker throughout the song.
Cray played with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan, and Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin, performing "Sweet Home Chicago". This was Stevie Ray Vaughan's final performance before he died in a helicopter accident later that night.
Cray was invited to play at the "Guitar Legends" concerts in Seville, Spain at the 1992 Expo, where he played a signature track, "Phone Booth". Albert Collins was also on the bill on this blues night of the "Legends" gigs.
Cray continues to record and tour. He appeared at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, and supported Eric Clapton on his 2006-2007 world tour. In Fargo, North Dakota, he joined Clapton on backup guitar for the Cream song "Crossroads". In 2011, Cray was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame and received the Americana Music Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance in 2017.
Robert Cray Band
- Robert Cray – guitar, vocals
- Les Falconer – drums
- Dover Weinberg – keyboards
- Richard Cousins – bass guitar
- Peter Boe – keyboards
- Al Chez – trumpet
- Kevin Hayes – drums
- Wayne Jackson – trumpet
- Tim Kaihatsu – guitar
- Andrew Love – saxophone
- Ed Manion – saxophone
- Rocky Manzanares – harp
- Tom Murphy – drums
- David Olson – drums
- Mark Pender – trumpet
- Jimmy Pugh – keyboards
- Warren Rand – alto saxophone
- Curtis Salgado – harp
- Karl Sevareid – bass
- David Stewart – keyboards
- Mike Vannice – saxophone
- Terence F Clark - drums
- "Band". Robert Cray. 2014-04-01. Retrieved 2015-09-06.
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 106. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 222–3. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- Cray (2011). "Robert Cray official website". Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- "Guitarist Robert Cray still has the blues". Retrieved 2017-02-07.
- "Blues Hall of Fame inductees 2011". Blues.org. Archived from the original on 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2012-03-02.
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