(born August 1, 1953, Columbus, Georgia, United States)Cray started playing guitar in his early teens. He attended Denbigh High School in Newport News, Virginia, and wanted to become an architect, but around the same time that he began to study architectural design he formed the band Steakface, which played covers by Jimi Hendrix, Quiksilver Messenger Service, Fleetwood Mac, and others.
By the age of twenty, Cray had seen his heroes Albert Collins, Freddie King and Muddy Waters in concert and decided to form his own band, who 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.
In the 1978 film “National Lampoon's Animal House”, Cray was 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 HighTone 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.
By now, Cray was an opening act for such major stars as Eric Clapton (who remains a friend to this day), and sold out larger venues as a solo artist.
Cray has generally played Fender guitars ( Telecasters and Stratocasters) and there are two signature Robert Cray Stratocasters models available from Fender. The Robert Cray Custom Shop Stratocaster is made in the United States in the Fender custom shop and is identical to the guitars that Cray currently plays, while the Robert Cray Standard Stratocaster is a less-expensive model made in Fender's Ensada, Mexico plant.
Cray had the opportunity to play alongside John Lee Hooker on his album “Boom Boom”, playing the guitar solo in the song "Same Old Blues Again". He is also featured on the Hooker album, “The Healer”, he plays a guitar solo on the song "Baby Lee". The entire Robert Cray Band backs Hooker on the title track of Hooker's 1992 album "Mr. Lucky", where Cray plays lead guitar, sings, and banters with Hooker throughout the song.
Cray was invited to play at the "Guitar Legends" concerts in Seville, Spain at the 1992 Expo, where he played a signature track, "Phone Booth". Albert Collins was also on the bill on this blues night of the "Legends" gigs.
Cray continues to record and tour. He appeared at the Crossroads Guitar Festival and supported Eric Clapton on his 2006-2007 world tour.
In Fargo, North Dakota, he joined Clapton on backup guitar for the song "Crossroads".
In 2011, Cray was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame.