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Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:09 pm
by john poole
Henry Gray - born 19th January, 1925 (Kenner, Louisiana) - blues piano player, 88 today, he moved to Chicago after serving in the army during WWII - seems to have played with just about anyone who was anybody, probably more live than on record, apparently including Elmore James' final appearance on the night he died.

He did play on the great 'Look Out Mabel' by G.L. Crockett, and recorded a couple of songs for Chess in 1953 (maybe as "Little Henry") which remained unreleased until the 70s -
'I Declare That Ain't Right'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E7wE-kY23E
with Henry "Pot" Strong, Muddy Waters' harmonica player at the time, who it appears was killed by a jealous girlfriend the following year

Henry Gray was the primary piano player for Howlin' Wolf between 1956-68 - Chess generally used other pianists including Hosea Lee Kennard and Johnny Jones when the Wolf recorded, but discographers appear to agree that Henry played on the December. 1961 session that gave us 'Goin' Down Slow', 'I Ain't Superstitious' and 'You'll Be Mine'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLGgVRMk0Rg
with Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon, Sam Lay. Further proof that Marc Bolan didn't just listen to Eddie Cochran?

Henry moved back to Louisiana to help his mother following the death of his father, but has continued to play. Here in 2004 from the film "10 Days Out" where the guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd had gathered together some of the survivors from Howlin' Wolf's band - 'The Red Rooster'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O74xMRegxiw

Talking about his days with Howlin' Wolf
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUw4IxWfZU0
and with Muddy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJsB1QUCV3Q

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:12 pm
by Alan Balfour
Thanks John. Keep 'em coming.

Astonishing to think that Neil Slaven wrote a two page appreciation of Henry Gray for R&B Monthly as long ago as March 1965, not another until 1970 by dear old Blues Unlimited and then a whole flurry of them in 1977 when he started touring Europe.

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 4:58 pm
by Adam Blake
I met and played with Henry Gray. I was terrified. He was charming. Just thought I'd namedrop...

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:13 pm
by john poole
Adam Blake wrote:I met and played with Henry Gray. I was terrified. He was charming. Just thought I'd namedrop...
Connected to all those great bluesmen - more information required ...

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 5:43 pm
by Adam Blake
Certainly.

It was 1996 or 1997. My friends and colleagues, Errol Linton and Richard Rhoden (who are both London Jamaican blues musicians) were touring with him and, on the London date, they invited me down to listen and sit in if I felt like it. I honestly can't remember what the venue was but I was sitting there enjoying the set very much when Richard (the mouthy one) grabbed a microphone and said something along the lines of "Ladeez'n'gennleman, it gives us great pleasure to introduce the very wunnerful Adam Blake who's gonna get up and entertain y'all". I was terrified but what could I do? I got up, plugged in a guitar. Henry took one look at me (I am white English) and promptly left the stage. Richard grinned like the evil bastard that he is, Errol pretended not to have noticed. I called "Bottle Up And Go" and did my best. Henry sat directly in front of me and stared at me as I sang:

"Mama killed a chicken, thought it was a duck, put 'im onna table wid de legs stickin' up"

After a couple of verses, Henry unobtrusively but decisively returned to the stage and added seamless and impeccable piano accompaniment. I felt honoured, relieved and terrified simultaneously. I knew his pedigree! We did about three numbers together before I was allowed to return to the audience. After the set, Henry was the soul of affability but made his excuses and returned to wherever he was staying. I went home in a daze. I think I still have it all on a cassette somewhere.

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 6:37 pm
by john poole
Great story, thank you Adam.

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:35 am
by john poole
89 today and still performing - filmed a couple of weeks ago at a memorial concert for the recently deceased Tabby Thomas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXwdK_4i7Qs

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:11 am
by john poole
Today he's 91 - now I guess the oldest survivor from the Chicago blues scene of the 1950s.

'Matchbox Blues' as Little Henry - one of the tracks he recorded for Chess in 1953
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzxAe3EWgpk
Henry Strong - harmonica; Morris Pejoe - guitar; "Stovepipe" - drums

Two sessions Henry played on -

''Chicago Bound' by Jimmy Rogers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td7236JoTAk
Little Walter - harmonica; Jimmy Rogers & Muddy Waters - guitars; Willie Dixon - bass; Odie Payne - drums. Recorded 7th January, 1954 following a session earlier in the day during which Muddy had recorded '(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man'

'Just Like I Treat You' by Howlin' Wolf (1961)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGrmKqJCFHw
with Hubert Sumlin, Willie Dixon, & Sam Lay - released as the B-side of 'I Ain't Superstitious', but became the A-side when issued here on Pye International (The Wolf's second UK 45 it would seem)
http://www.45cat.com/record/7n25192

and filmed a few weeks ago "warming up" before a recording session - wikipedia informs that Henry accompanied Elmore James on the night before he suffered his fatal heart attack.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-tyB87z04Y

http://blog.ponderosastomp.com/2009/09/364/
http://www.ponderosastomp.com/music_more/22/Henry+Gray

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2016 12:14 pm
by Adam Blake
Fantastic that Henry Gray is still with us! Cheers for remembering, John.

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:50 am
by john poole
Henry has lost his home in the recent Louisiana flooding. A fundraising campaign has been launched by Bob Corritore-

"91 year old blues icon and WWII Veteran Henry Gray lost his home and everything he owns to historic flooding that has devasted many Louisiana communities. He is safe and in good health but stated yesterday "I have lost everything." Henry is now displaced, please help him recover."

https://www.gofundme.com/2k3359w

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 2:18 pm
by NormanD
I can't believe that many people are suffering AGAIN in Louisiana due to flooding. Or maybe I should just believe it, in the same way I know that life barely improves for too many people in the USA. The blues may have changed, almost died out as we know it - but the circumstances behind it are as vicious as ever before.

Re: Henry Gray (19th January Birthday)

PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2016 5:14 pm
by Adam Blake
Thanks, John. I've contributed and posted the link up on Facebook.