Cray was born on August 1, 1953 in Columbus, Georgia. An Army brat who grew up all over the country before his folks settled in Tacoma, Washington in 1968, Cray listened intently to soul and rock before becoming immersed in the blues (in particular, the icy Telecaster of Albert Collins, who played at Cray's high school graduation). Cray formed his first band with longtime bassist Richard Cousins in 1974 . They soon hooked up with Collins as his backup unit before breaking out on their own. The cinematic set caught a brief glimpse of Cray (even if they weren't aware of it) when he anonymously played the bassist of the frat party band Otis Day & the Knights in National Lampoon's Animal House. Cray's Tomato set, also featuring the harp of Curtis Salgado, was an excellent beginning, but it was the guitarist's 1983 set for HighTone, Bad Influence, that really showed just how full of talent Cray was. Another HighTone set, False Accusations, preceded the emergence of the Grammy-winning 1985 guitar summit meeting album Showdown! for Alligator, which found the relative newcomer more than holding his own alongside Collins and Texan Johnny Copeland. Strong Persuader earned two Grammys in two years and made Cray a familiar face even on video-driven MTV.
Unlike many of his peers, Cray continued to experiment within his two presiding genres, blues and soul, on sets for Mercury such as Midnight Stroll in 1990, I Was Warned in 1992, and Shame + a Sin in 1993. After switching to Rykodisc in the late '90s, Cray released Take Your Shoes Off in 1999 and Shoulda Been Home in 2001, proving that the "bluenatics" (as he amusedly labels his purist detractors) have nothing to fear and plenty to anticipate from this innovative, laudably accessible guitarist. Touring regularly with the likes of Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, Cray stayed active in the studio as well, signing with Sanctuary Records and releasing Time Will Tell in 2003, Twenty in 2005, a pair of live albums, Live from Across the Pond in 2006 and Live at the BBC in 2008, and This Time, which was issued by Vanguard Records a year later. Cray released his third live album in four years, Cookin' in Mobile, in 2010. The material that comprised the album was taken from a single performance at the Saenger Theatre in Mobile, Alabama in February of that year. The Kevin Shirley-produced Nothin But Love, a solid outing featuring narrative songs that circle around the trials and tribulations of love, appeared in 2012. Nearly two years later, he announced details of his 17th album with the Robert Cray Band called In My Soul. Released in spring of 2014, In My Soul saw Cray reuniting with producer Steve Jordan, who had previously helmed Take Your Shoes Off, and settling into a deep, soulful groove. In My Soul topped Billboard's Blues charts and on its supporting tour, Cray gave a celebratory 40th Anniversary concert that was recorded and released in 2015 as 4 Nights and 40 Years Live. ~ Bill Dahl & Al Campbell, Rovi