NEWTON, NJ – Blues rocker Robert Cray will return to The Newton Theatre on Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 8:00 pm. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday, November 20th at 11:00 am.
With 5 Grammy Awards, 15 nominations, millions of record sales worldwide, and thousands of sold out performances, blues icon Robert Cray is considered “one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.” Rolling Stone Magazine 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 fifteen Billboard charting studio albums and has written or performed with everyone from Eric Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Bonnie Raitt to John Lee Hooker. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame at the age of 57, he is one of the youngest living legends to receive the prestigious honor. He can look back over an astonishing three-decade career punctuated by his trademark sound and distinct playing style.
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 longtime friend Richard Cousins on bass, whose thrillingly modern take on the blues was the talk of the circuit. In 1976, after two years of touring, they were invited to be the house band for Albert Collins; a stellar musical apprenticeship and schoolboy fantasy that lasted over 18 months.
Opening their account with 1980’s Who’s Been Talkin’, the Robert Cray Band fired off three albums in quick succession, and although 1985’s False Accusations hijacked the charts and won an industry blues award, it was the following year’s Strong Persuader that achieved lift-off, hitting a US#13 chart position that was unprecedented for a blues record in the synthesizer age. “I guess Strong Persuader just captured a good spirit and energy,” Cray reflects. “People are still calling out for some of those songs at shows. It gave us a good springboard. I guess it was the songs, but it was also the era, because radio and MTV gave us a foothold, and we had videos out too.”
Cray had arrived in the big leagues. As songs like Smoking Gun 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.
The oft-quoted line reads ‘that bluesmen improve with age’, and Cray’s evolving output through the next two decades gives weight to the theory, a Grammy for the album Take Your Shoes Off and additional Grammy nominations. “We have been very lucky,” says Cray, “with music becoming mostly digital in recent years and artists not selling the same number of physical records, we’re afforded the luxury of having a great loyal and amazing fan base around the world, allowing a band like ours to continue to work.”
It’s quite a humble and unassuming statement, given his illustrious career – but that’s always been Cray’s style. He doesn’t take anything for granted, doesn’t rest on his laurels.
Tickets for Robert Cray range from $49.00 to 64.00. Purchase tickets by visiting www.thenewtontheatre.com or contact the Box Office at 973-383-3700.
The historic Newton Theatre, located at 234 Spring Street in Newton, NJ, was founded in 1924. Revitalized and fully renovated, Sussex County’s premier entertainment venue reopened in 2011 as a 605 seat capacity live performing arts center. With it’s rich history and diverse programming The Newton Theatre is essential to the buoyancy of New Jersey’s Skylands region. More information about The Newton Theatre may be found by calling 973-383-3700 or by visiting its website at www.TheNewtonTheatre.com.