Henry Gray and the Creole Cats, “92”


For Your Consideration. Traditional Blues Grammy voting category.

Listen to a sample of the songs here at Amazon or here at iTunes. Digital download of CD available for purchase @ both places. The physical CD with all the beautiful photos of Henry is also available here in our shop.

At 92 years of age, Henry Gray holds a unique place in a rare category of nonagenarians – those between the age of 90 and 99- men and women who are still living full lives and accomplishing great things in their profession. Make no mistake though; Henry Gray has been accomplishing great things in blues music for 70 years! He’s a living legend, a national treasure, a pioneer of postwar Chicago blues, and a Grammy nominated artist whose storied and enduring music career is as intriguing as any artist living today. He is one of the last remaining artists from his generation still performing. Henry’s piano skills remain switchblade sharp, his voice retains its strength and expressiveness, and he continues to perform with a youthful exuberance of someone many years younger. He is most famously known as Howlin Wolf’s piano player of 14 years, and he recorded and toured with Wolf as well as other blues greats like Muddy Waters, Lil Walter and Jimmy Reed. As an African American blues performer growing up in the South, Henry overcame obstacles that few are alive to talk about – all underscoring a tenacious spirit that carried him along his remarkable, 92 year long journey.

American Blues Scene 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Henry Gray.   Including this – The Rolling Stones are such big fans of his, that in 1998 Henry performed for Mick Jagger’s 55 birthday party in Paris. True story. Yep. Coincidentally, The Stones also recorded and released a traditional blues album. Wow, right?! It’s no secret that black blues artists from the South greatly influenced the music of early rock, including the Rolling Stones and especially founding member, the late Brian Jones. We salute them for the respect and reverence they have for these artists who helped shape popular music.

Co-producer Terrance Simien, a two time GRAMMY award winning artist felt compelled to record Henry after seeing him perform again several years ago. Impressed by his vibrant stage presence, Simien understood Gray’s invaluable and relevant contributions to American music history – Terrance first met Henry in 1984 at the World’s Fair in New Orleans where they both performed at the Louisiana Folk Life Pavilion when he was 19 – Henry 59. The CD cover photograph was taken there by Lynn Abbott, Hogan Jazz Archives, Tulane, New Orleans. DeAndre Tate, Henry’s great grandson, music teacher and a skilled musician himself, co-produced the CD, along with Cynthia Simien. The Creole Cats are: legendary guitarist, Paul “Lil Buck” Sinegal, Bob Corritore, Danny Williams, Stan Chambers, Oreun Joubert and Terrance Simien. Recorded at the beautiful Dockside Studio, where Dr. John, BB King, Mavis Staples and Gatemouth Brown also recorded. Mixed & mastered by multiple Grammy award winning engineer, David Farrell.            photo: Paul “Lil Buck” Sinegal

Lil Buck

Finally, some may ask why Terrance + Henry, and why the Creole Cats? What’s the connection? Well, like Terrance has said many times in interviews over his 35+ year career,  blues & zydeco are connected in many ways; culturally, geographically, historically and musically.  From the early artists like Clifton Chenier who was label mates at Specialty Records with Sam Cooke, Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Lester Williams and Guitar Slim.Clifton toured with Etta James and Lowell Fulson on the Alan Freed tour packages. In the 1970’s and 80’s  it was the blues labels, festivals and venues all over the globe that continued to embrace this southern black music tradition incubated alongside blues, folk, gospel, jazz and even Cajun music – after all it is Amede Ardoin who’s considered the grandfather of Cajun music, and the first Creole to record French music that evolved into zydeco. Both Clifton and CJ Chenier,  as well as Buckwheat recorded for Alligator Records, a well known blues label out of Chicago. This long and fruitful relationship with the blues community also included a young, innovative Terrance Simien who burst onto the scene in the early 1980’s as one of only two teenage bands performing the music. Terrance has shared some of the same stages that Henry has performed on all over the world, just as he has with countless blues music luminaries and legends.

And what about the Creole Cats. Well, since Henry’s last band was called Henry Gray and the Cats,  it made perfect sense to have some of his musical brethren from Creole country SoLA come onto the project as the Creole Cats. Simien was also thrilled to bring Lil Buck and Henry together again – two extremely and influential artists who share similar struggles and adversity to follow their calling as blues & roots musicians from the Deep South.

Terrance is both honored and humbled that DeAndre and Henry allowed him to produce this project where Henry’s piano and vocal performances on this recording once again galvanizes his place and earned position as a living legend and the “only blues artist alive today with this level of experience.” -Blues Access, Bill Taylor.


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