I caught up with blues guitarist Robert Cray as he was resting in his hotel room in Tulsa, Okla. in the middle of a tour that is taking him across the country before he lands at the Park Theatre in Cranston, does a few more one-nighters, and then goes to Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
On Tuesday, he played at the prestigious B.B. King Club in New York City (“One of my favorite clubs, with all its great traditions.”). He’s familiar with Rhode Island, having played many times over the years at Lupo’s and at the Newport Jazz Festival.
With five Grammy Awards, 15 nominations, millions of records sold worldwide and thousands of sold-out performances, Cray is a rock blues icon, considered one of the best guitarists of his generation. At age 59, he admits to being AARP eligible but is still considered a “youngster” by many of his peers.
“My influences are Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy and, of course, B.B. King,” he said. “But it was Albert Collins, who played at my high school dance, who was my real mentor. I recently played back-up on his album.”
While primarily a blues guitarist, Cray is interested in and influenced by a variety of genres.
“I grew up listening to all kinds of music,” he said. “My parents were big fans of Sam Cooke. I liked everything from the Beatles to B.B. King. My dad was in the Army, so we moved around quite a bit. I had a lot of time and the guitar became my friend. The Beatles were just out, and that’s why I got one. That’s why a lot of kids got guitars.”
Cray’s audiences range from blues lovers of his generation to parents who bring their younger children, introducing a new generation of mainstream rock fans to “the language and form of the blues.”
Cray has 15 Billboard charting albums to his credit and has written for or performed with everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan and from Bonnie Raitt to John Lee Hooker. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame at the young age of 57.
His latest album, “Nothing But Love,” was released on Aug. 28, and he promises to play some pieces from it. Cray’s band also consists of Jim Pugh on keyboards, Richard Cousins on bass and Tony Braunagel on drums, with Cray on guitar and vocals.
“You’ll hear a little blues, rock, soul and jazz,” he said.
The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band will also be on the program at the Park Theatre in Cranston on Friday, Sept. 28 beginning at 7:30 p.m. Still in his 30s, Shepherd has been selling millions of albums, putting a modern twist on the blues.
For tickets call the Park Theatre box office at 467-7275, or go to their website at www.ParkTheatreRI.com.