CLEARWATER — The Robert Cray Band will perform Saturday, Jan. 25, 8 p.m., at the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater.
Tickets start at $36.50. Call 727-791-7400 or visit www.rutheckerdhall.com.
Boasting five Grammy awards, 15 Grammy nominations and millions of record sales worldwide, Cray is a veteran of thousands of sold-out performances. The blues-rock icon is considered one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.
“Who’s Been Talkin’” — the group’s 1980 debut release — started the fire. Word spread about the Cray Band. In the years that followed, Cray and his band played packed bars and roadhouses across the Northwest and into California. Fans could hear an Albert Collins guitar riff and a Howlin’ Wolf song but the sound was present. Blues and soul fans flocked to his concerts as did those who favored rock, funk and jazz.
“Bad Influence” followed in 1983, along with “False Accusations” in 1985. That same year, Cray recorded “Showdown!” with Collins and Johnny Copeland. That album won the Best Traditional Blues Recording Grammy Award in 1986.
Then came “Strong Persuader” in 1986. Cray’s fifth studio album would turn out to be his mainstream breakthrough. With singles such as “Smoking Gun” and “Right Next Door (Because of Me),” the album went on to sell more than 2 million copies.
Since the release of “Strong Persuader,” Cray has recorded more than a dozen 20 studio releases, many of which have been on the Billboard charts. In addition to his Grammy Awards, Cray also has a suitcase full of W.C. Handy Blues Awards. In 2011, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame at the age of 57, making him one of the youngest living legends to receive the prestigious honor.
Cray has written or performed with everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughn, from Bonnie Raitt to John Lee Hooker. While he can look back over an astonishing three-decade long career, punctuated by his trademark sound and distinct playing style, he is far too busy moving forward as the amazing journey continues.
In 2014, Cray released “In My Soul,” his 17th studio album. On the album, he reasserted his position as one of his generation's great musical storytellers. Produced by Steve Jordan, “In My Soul” blends funky originals with surprising covers, and captures a new configuration of the Robert Cray Band: long-time bass player Richard Cousins is joined by keyboardist Dover Weinberg (returning to the group, with which he played in the 1970s and 1980s) as well as new drummer Les Falconer.
"In my recollection, we have never sat down and decided what kind of record we're going to make," Cray said in a press release from TMA Publicity promoting the album. "This time, I knew we were going to do an R&B thing, because that's what we've done whenever we work with Steve, but we didn't have a concept – that develops because of the songs and the people who play on it."
In talking about touring, Cray said he continues to see new, younger faces in his audience.
"There's a younger generation now whose parents turned them on to our music," he said. "It reminds me of when I was young and going to see Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, all the blues I could. It is kind of funny to be in the position of being the older generation now. But I'm just going to continue to do what we do. I can only do what I know, and we'll see what happens."
In 2017, Cray released “Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm,” his most recent studio recording.