Henry Gray grew up on a farm near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. By the age of 12 he was spending his free time away from the cotton fields visiting the churches and juke joints nearby and attempting to imitate the piano styles he heard inside. After serving in World War II, he joined the rural migration north to Chicago where, after a period of time working with bluesman Big Maceo Merriwether, he became the piano player in the legendary Howlin Wolf's band. During this twelve-year stint he helped shape the Chicago blues piano style and he wrote some enduring blues songs.
In 1968 Gray returned to Louisiana and eventually took up work as a roofer for the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. Although popular groups such as the Rolling Stones were drawing attention to the urban blues styles of Chicago, Gray chose to play in clubs around Baton Rouge, emulating the "swamp blues" style of the region. Over the past twenty years he has recorded a number of well-received solo albums and he has again begun touring and appearing at festivals. Scholar Dave Kunian says: "If you've listened to blues music in the last half-century, you've heard pianist Henry Gray...he recorded and played for everybody...[and] helped create the blueprint for Chicago blues piano and all that it would be ... whenever you hear someone play a familiar blues riff or turnaround on the piano, there is a good chance they learned it from Henry Gray -- or someone who learned it off Henry Gray."
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Sample: "Henry's Houserocker"
Sample: "Rock Me"