Henry Gray (born January 19, 1925, Kenner, Louisiana) is an African-American blues piano player and singer. He has been playing for more than seven decades, and has played with a multitude of artists including Robert Lockwood, Jr., Billy Boy Arnold, Morris Pejoe, the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf among many others. He has more than 58 albums to his credit, including recordings for the Chess Records label. He is credited as helping to create the distinctive sound of the Chicago blues piano.Shortly after he was born Gray, an only child, moved with his parents to a farm in Alsen, Louisiana, a few miles north of Baton Rouge, where he would spend his childhood years. Gray began studying piano at the age of eight with a neighborhood woman, Mrs. White. Gray also credits the radio and music records in his home for inspiring his love for music at a young age. A few years later, Gray began playing piano and organ at his local Baptist church, and his family eventually got a piano for the house. While blues playing was not encouraged within his family’s home, Henry did play blues at Mrs. White’s house, and by the time he was 16 he was playing blues music at a club in Alsen. His father initially disapproved of Gray’s “club gig” but, after seeing how much money he was making, Gray’s father became supportive. In 1943, Gray joined the United States Army and was sent to the South Pacific during World War II. While in the Army, Gray would frequently entertain his fellow soldiers with his piano playing and singing. Shortly before the war was over, Gray was given a medical discharge from the army. He returned to the U.S. in 1946 where he spent a brief time in Alsen before relocating to Chicago where he had relatives.
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