Bobby Murray’s prowess as one of blues music’s elite guitarists is well known among those that are acquainted with the genre. If you’ve seen or heard the late Etta James on The Sopranos, The Tonight Show, Austin City Limits, Late Night w/Letterman, or performing from Carnegie Hall to the Grand Ole Opry - then chances are you’ve heard or seen Bobby. As Robert Santelli of Downbeat said, “He’s the one that makes you take notice.”
The multi-talented guitarist, bandleader, songwriter and producer, played and toured with Ms. James for twenty-two years, He has also performed on three Grammy-winning recordings; two with Etta James and one with B.B. King. Since Etta’s untimely passing in early 2012, Bobby continues to be inspired by his longtime boss and fondly remembers getting the call when Etta was looking for a blues guitarist to augment her Roots Band in 1988.
Bobby says of Etta James, “I'll always love Etta. To have played with such a musical giant and incredible singer is an honor to me that's beyond measure. Ms. James afforded me so many wonderful opportunities and I'm proud of being a part of an exceptional band. I'll always carry Etta with me. We really were like family, for so many years."
The journey that eventually led Murray to Etta James began in his birthplace of Nagoya, Japan. Bobby grew up in a military family whose international travels eventually took them to Tacoma, Washington. It was there that Murray befriended Robert Cray and they played in a band together throughout high school. The entertainment at their graduation was none other than blues great - Albert Collins, who would later become both friend and mentor to both the young Murray and Cray. For the next twenty years, Bobby performed off and on with Collins. Although Albert passed in 1993, he continues to influence Murray today.
In the mid seventies, Bobby moved to Los Angeles and then to Oakland, CA in 1976 to play with blues singer Frankie Lee. The two struck up a lifelong friendship, culminating with Murray producing several recordings for Lee. It was also then that Bobby began a friendship with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson who was also a profound influence on Murray. Bobby also started playing with Paul Butterfield alum, keyboardist/bandleader Mark Naftalin - who had a band and revue. The band also did a weekly radio broadcast on KTIM and accompanied different musical artists every week. Murray says this period was invaluable to him, citing the experience he gained playing in clubs and festivals in California and elsewhere, while playing with a variety of artists in a myriad of styles. Bobby also served as musical director for Tom Mazzolini’s San Francisco Blues Festival’s tours to Japan and Europe - where this experience served him well.
Murray would later record with B.B. King and Robert Cray on the aptly titled "Playing with My Friends" on King's Grammy award-winning album, "Blues Summit." During his impressive career, Murray has performed or recorded with John Lee Hooker, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Lowell Fulson, Taj Mahal, Jimmy Witherspoon, Otis Rush, Percy Mayfield, Jimmy McCracklin, Charlie Musselwhite, Johnnie Taylor, Otis Clay, Sugar Pie Desanto, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy & Jr. Wells, The Sweet Inspirations, Chuck Berry, Carla Thomas, Irma Thomas as well as a host of others. Bobby’s stirring guitar work can be heard on numerous Etta James recordings, including Grammy-winning releases “Let's Roll" and "Blues to the Bone."
In 1996, Murray released his debut album "The Blues is Now" on the Viceroy label. Soon after, he moved from California to Detroit and released two more recordings for No Cover Productions.
Bobby’s latest recording, “I'm Stickin' With You,” features eleven songs written by Murray and performed with his longtime band -- Mark Thibodeau on keyboards and vocals, Dave Uricek on bass and vocals and Renell Gonsalves on drums. Also with guest musician appearances by such stalwarts as Ron Pangborn, Nolan Mendenhall and Roscoe White. Guest vocalists include some of the Motor City’s finest; Barbara Payton, Wiley 'Red' Redding, Paul Randolph and from Windsor, Ontario, Tom Hogarth. Engineered and mixed by Brian ‘Roscoe’ White and produced by Bobby Murray, Brian 'Roscoe' White and Tim McBride. Murray states, “I’m excited about this recording and I think it captures everything that we’re about. It’s also a dream come true to have played with everybody on the session. Tim McBride, my business partner and our executive producer - allowed me the opportunity to do this project without having to cut corners. We hope you like it!”
For the outstanding contributions that he has made throughout his career, Bobby was recently awarded the Detroit Blues Society’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. While Murray’s contributions to blues and music speak for themselves, he is rightfully proud of the respect he has generated from peers and colleagues alike. And he’s very much looking forward to the latest chapter in a rich musical career.
"The boy is bad!" - Etta James
"He's so powerful, man!" - B.B. King
"Bobby is the real deal - the product of a love for a tradition that he both honors and applauds."
David Ritz - Grammy award-winning writer and biographer
“Anybody who’s seen Bobby Murray’s live shows already knows the man can bring forth the blues fire on command.”
Keith Owens - Metro Times
“His guitar growls, moans, leaps, flies, whoops, and sighs. No matter the role or pace, there is never any doubt that Murray's guitar's vocabulary is as potent and alive as any in the genre.”
Kevin East - Carousel Corner