Cray started playing guitar in his early teens. At Denbigh High School in Newport News, Virginia, his love of blues and soul music flourished as he started collecting records. Originally, he wanted to become an architect, but around the same time he began to study architectural design, he formed a local band "Steakface", described as "the best band from Lakewood you never heard of". Cray's guitar and vocals contributed greatly to Steakface's set list of songs by Jimi Hendrix, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Fleetwood Mac, The Grease Band, Blodwyn Pig, Jethro Tull, Spirit and The Faces.

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; they began playing college towns on the West Coast. After several years of regional success, Cray was signed to Mercury Records in 1982. His third 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 U.S. in the Fender custom shop and is identical to the guitars that Cray currently plays,...

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