The Robert Cray Band

The Center for the Arts presents
With Jeffrey Halford opening
Friday, November 18
$35 member, $45 non-member
Limited to 4 tickets per member
General Admission – floor and bleacher seating on a first-come-first-served basis
8:00PM concert

“…(Cray) introduced a new generation
of mainstream rock fans to the language
and form of the blues.”
– Rolling Stone

Robert Cray is one of the most popular artists in blues and soul music. Cray helped to shape the blues on the national scene in the 1980s with his breakthrough album Strong Persuader in 1986. His soulful and creative guitar work has been a dominant force in blues. Over the years Cray\’s musical influence has been recognized and acknowledged. The Blues Hall of Fame will induct Cray as a member on May 4 this year.

Cray is one of a few blues artists with the talent and vision to successfully usher the idiom into the 21st century without resorting either to slavish imitation or simply playing rock while passing it off as blues. His immensely popular records helped to jump-start the contemporary blues boom that still holds sway to this day. Blessed with a soulful voice and a concise lead guitar approach that never wastes notes, Cray’s rise to international fame was indeed a heartwarming one. For a guy whose 1980 debut album for Tomato, Who’s Been Talkin’, proved an instantaneous cutout, his ascendancy was amazingly swift in 1986 his breakthrough Strong Persuader album won a Grammy and shot his reputation skyward.

Robert Cray was born on August 1, 1953 in Columbus, GA. An Army brat who grew up all over the country before his folks settled in Tacoma, WA, 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 release, also featuring the harp of Curtis Salgado, was an excellent beginning, but it was the guitarist’s 1983 recording, Bad Influence, that really showed just how full of talent Cray was. Another release, False Accusations, preceded the emergence of the Grammy-winning 1985 guitar summit meeting album Showdown!, which found the relative newcomer more than holding his own alongside Collins and Texan Johnny Copeland. Strong Persuader made it two Grammys in two years and made Cray a familiar face even on video-driven MTV.


Unlike too many of his peers, Cray continued to experiment within his two presiding genres, blues and soul, on sets for Mercury such as Midnight Stroll, 1990, I Was Warned, 1992, and Shame + A Sin in 1993. Cray released Take Your Shoes Off in 1999, and Shoulda Been Home in 2001, proving that the “bluenatics” 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 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.


Jeffrey Halford

Halford\’s songs can serve as sagas of America
that can stand for all time.
Houston Press

Halford is probably one of the finest slabs of roots rock and country fried blues and soul you\’ll hear in this or any other year. Halford is the total package: an engaging singer with razor-sharp guitar chops who writes catchy songs loaded with storied lyricsit\’s almost frightening how good this guy is.Salt Lake City Weekly

This is great rootsy rock music. Halford\’s slide playing is raucous, raw, and foreboding. His poetry transcends the run-of-the-mill lyrics.No Depression Magazine

I am here to place Jeffrey Halford up on the pedestal with such figures as John Fogerty, Randy Newman, Alejandro Escovedo, and John Prineand Bob Dylanin the pantheon of great American singer-songwriters.OC Weekly/ Los Angeles

San Francisco singer/songwriter/guitarist Jeffrey Whitmore Halford was born in Dallas, Texas, and grew up in the early 1960s listening to Roger Miller on a $2 transistor radio. In 1963, the year JFK was shot, his parents headed west with their two young sons to Los Angeles in their \’59 El Dorado.

By the time Halford turned 18, he had moved 10 times between LA and San Francisc o weaned on the musical maelstrom of LA radio in the 60s and 70s. Surrounded by the albums of Ray Charles, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Elvis, and Buffalo Springfield, Halford soaked up the best of American music. His mom\’s favorites were Dylan Thomas and Walt Whitman, while Halford\’s were Raymond Carver and Pablo Neruda. Books and music were the family\’s salvation.

In high school, Halford ditched classes and came only to take the tests. According to school records, he had the worst attendance of any graduating student. He decided to add trouble w/the law to his resume. Then came a guitar from his dad, and things started to turn.

After high school, Halford enrolled in architecture school in San Francisco. While walking along Market Street, he watched a legendary street bandJimmy Ventilator and Harry Spiderplaying Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson, and the Ventures. Halford convinced them that he should join the band. For more than a year, he cut his guitar chops on the street, playing to crowds in Chinatown and Union Square until the police closed them down. His street gig led him to play with Oakland blues greats Sonny Lane, Mississippi Johnny Waters, and JJ Malone in clubs throughout that city. He also formed his own roots rockabilly band, The Snappers, playing for students at U.C. Berkeley, serving as the house band at Ruthie\’s Inn in Berkeley, and performing with the Blasters, Chris Isaak, and the Beat Farmers. Music was Halford\’s salvation.

Based in San Francisco over the last 15 years, he\’s been touring the country with his band, the Healers. They\’ve played shows with some of the most acclaimed artists and songwriters, including Taj Mahal, Los Lobos, Etta James, The Radiators, Robert Earl Keen, John Hammond, Augie Meyers, Dave Alvin, Guy Clark, and Chuck Prophet, among others. His newest and fifth CD, Railbirds, is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Hunkpapa. His original roots rock n roll songs etch a uniquely American, and specifically California, landscape. The reviews for Hunkpapa encapsulate what makes Halford so distinctive and compelling.

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