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M897 Artist Spotlight: March 2015

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LARRY McCRAY

The business of Bay City Blues

Story by LCC Radio Staff Reporter Sarah Spohn

Larry McCrayBorn in Arkansas, this Southern gentleman began his heartfelt connection with the Blues at a young age. It was his first love, after all. Internationally-known blues guitarist and vocalist Larry McCray moved to the mitten state in the early seventies.

Though he’s been here most his life, he’s still got those good ole fashioned manners, “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” are spoken softly and earnestly.

At Saginaw High School, McCray played horn, saxophone and guitar in bands and choirs. It was at his home in Saginaw that he learned from his older sister to play guitar when he was a pre-teen in 1972.
“She showed me how to play some chords, she taught me my first songs,” McCray said. “She was already a musician.”

McCray grew up in a large family, with 36 years in between the youngest and oldest siblings.
He credits his love of blues music partly to the way he was raised.

“My first love was blues music, due to the fact of my upbringing and where I was raised in and things like that,” McCray said.

But it wasn’t just blues music that stole this Southerner-turned Saginaw resident’s heart, rock ’n’ roll also appealed to an older McCray.

“When I got on my own, and started experiencing other music, I found myself being fond of rock ‘n’ roll,” McCray said. “I was exposed to it and hearing it all the time on the radio, so how could you not?”

Larry McCray - The Gibson SessionsIt was this shared love of blues and rock that brought the idea for McCray’s latest album, The Gibson Sessions.

The album is entirely cover songs, featuring ‎Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band, ZZ Top, Rolling Stones, Crosby Stills & Nash, and fellow Michigan native Bob Seger.

While the songs are iconic in rock ‘n’ roll history, McCray couldn’t stray too far from his first musical love of blues. Given his lofty list of inspirational artists including Ray Charles, BB King, Billy Preston, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Gladys Knight, McCray knows how to get down with the best of ‘em, regardless of genre.

The inspiration was the fact that I like rock’n’roll music as well as blues music,” McCray said. I always wanted the opportunity to do a project like that. We strictly did it because it was something we wanted to do,” McCray said of the Gibson Sessions record.

“We didn’t’ alter the music so much so that it was unrecognizable. Hopefully people still recognize enough of the songs that it doesn’t take away from the endearment of the classic.”

While this blues guitarist has been all around the world, touring in Chicago, Brazil, Poland, and the UK, McCray said it’s always nice to return home to his home outside of Bay City.

“Michigan is home. It’s all my people and friends and people I love. And it’s also more challenging, because your home people are never going to lie to you,” McCray said. “If you don’t bring the goods, they’re quick to let you know.”

McCray is currently working on new material on his independent label, Magnolia Records. You can catch him live in action at Bell’s Back Room in Kalamazoo on April 17.

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Larry McCray - Can't You See
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