The Rise of Robert Cray
Music video for Robert Cray’s “Smoking Gun” circa 1986.
At the age of twenty, inspired by the live performances of his heroes Albert Collins, Freddie King and Muddy Waters, Robert Cray formed his own band and 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. Cray appeared in the 1978 film National Lampoon’s Animal House, as the uncredited bassist in the house party band Otis Day and the Knights. After several years of regional success, Cray was signed to Mercury Records in 1982. Two albums on High Tone Records in the mid-80s, 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. His fourth album release, Strong Persuader, produced by Dennis Walker, received a Grammy Award, while the crossover single “Smokin’ Gun” gave him wider appeal and name recognition.
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