The Robert Cray Band
With 5 Grammy Awards, 15 nominations, millions of record sales worldwide, and thousands of sold out performances, rock blues icon Robert Cray is considered “one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.” Rolling Stone Magazine in their April 2011 issue credits Cray with reinventing the blues with his “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 gone on to record sixteen Billboard charting studio albums and has written or performed with everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan, from Bonnie Raitt to John Lee Hooker. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011 at the age of 57, he is one of the youngest living legends to receive the prestigious honor.
Cray still remembers the first love that led him here. “My dad was in the army, so we moved around quite a bit,” he explains. “I had a lot of time and the guitar became my friend. Also, when I first picked up a guitar, The Beatles were just out, and that’s why I got one. That’s why a lot of kids got guitars. The whole atmosphere of that time was, ‘Hey, I learnt this’. ‘Well, let me show you this…’ So that’s what sparked my interest, and it never really went away.” Cray cites Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy and B.B. King as formative guitar influences, alongside singers like Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, but just as pivotal for the aspiring bluesman was witnessing Albert Collins play a set at his high-school dance.
It was that Collins performance that led to the formation of the Robert Cray Band in 1974, a four piece touring band featuring Cray on lead vocals and guitar and his friend Richard Cousins on bass. Cray’s thrillingly modern take on the blues was the talk of the circuit, even if the singer was a bit of an introvert on stage. “I just couldn’t speak to the audience,” says Robert with a smile, “so Richard would do all the introductions. These days I think I’m a little better at it.”
As Cray’s songs scaled the singles charts across the planet and word spread of his incendiary live shows, his name began to be mentioned in the same breath as the blues heavyweights, and he was regularly to be found working alongside them. He spent the years that followed guesting on Eric Clapton’s Journeyman album, jamming live with Keith Richards, appearing in Tina Turner’s TV special Break Every Rule, posthumously inducting Howlin’ Wolf into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and supplying solos for the late John Lee Hooker. “We became good friends,” says Cray of this latter hero. “We were with the same agency, so we did a lot of shows together. I went to Japan with John Lee and watched as the Japanese fans mobbed him. It was fantastic.”
The oft-quoted line reads ‘that bluesmen improve with age’, and Cray’s evolving output through the next three decades gives weight to the theory. “We have been very lucky,” says Cray, “we’ve been afforded the luxury of having a great loyal and amazing fan base around the world, allowing a band like ours to continue to work.”
TICKETS: $35, $45, $55
AVAILABLE FROM AUGUST 21, 2015
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Park Theatre Box Office
848 Park Avenue, Cranston RI 02910
Monday - Saturday: 10am to 6pm