Larry McCray is happy to be singing the blues live on a Bay City stage for the first time in a year

It was over a year ago when Mid-Michigan’s main blues man last played a full-band show. 

Since then, Larry McCray has weathered a bout with COVID-19 along with the closure of performance venues. Now, though, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. McCray turned 61 on April 5 and hopes to celebrate his birthday and a return to performing with a June 26 fundraiser concert at Arbeitor Hall, 1304 S. Wenona St. in Bay City.

“I’m looking forward to it,” McCray says. “I really am.”
 
The Blues Benefit for the Bay County Animal Shelter

WHEN: Sat., June 26, 2021
Doors Open at 6 p.m./Show is at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Arbeitoer Hall, 1304 S Wenona St.
TICKETS:  $25 in advance
INFO: (989) 893-6111
The concert, billed as The Blues Benefit for the Bay County Animal Shelter, features McCray along with his brother, Steve McCray, on drums, Corey Ingram on bass, and Clever Keys on keyboards. Special guests for the evening include blues legends Donald Kinsey (Kinsey Report) and John Primer, Kenny Olson (ex-Kid Rock), and McCray’s son, Bleau Otis McCray. 

“He’s got a lot of potential,” says McCray about his son. “He's got some real good licks and stuff with a little jazzy bend to it. He’s got some blues chops, but he's leaning toward some neo-soul with some jazz. That’s what Bleau loves.”

With McCray spending more than a year at home, it was Bleau that opened his eyes up to YouTube and digging into some personal advancement for his own style from the Internet.

“The biggest thing that I’m kind of realizing after all these years is, I could have been teaching myself what I want to learn right here at home. I didn’t know that whatever lesson you want, you just type that into YouTube and it will pop right up and somebody will show you. If you want to study any scale, all you gotta do is write it in and somebody will show you the scale and how to use it.

A year-long hiatus on live performances is about to end for popular blue musician Larry McCray.“There’s so much stuff out there on YouTube,” laughs McCray in disbelief. “Little bitty kids, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, that play unbelievable (like) virtuoso’s, you know. Not yet seasoned, but they got the technical side down. It's just not there emotionally yet. (There are) a lot of people like that.”

McCray laughed some more at the fact that YouTube has become such a game-changer after all his years in the business.

“If somebody would have dropped some bricks on my head years ago, I might be where I want to be with all this. So I’m going online for lessons now and studying that way.”

The downtime has also allowed McCray to put his pen to paper and write songs like he’s never done before. He would really like to debut some new material in front of the Bay City crowd.

“I’ve written about 20 songs since I've been off,” he says. “I hope we can work up some of these songs. I feel pretty good about three or four. I wish I could get five or six, but that’s probably not going to happen.”

With so many guests and limited rehearsal availability due to COVID, McCray isn’t sure how many will make the setlist for the evening.

“We’re trying to get a couple of things going,” he says. “I don’t know how it's going to work. It's kind of up in the air.”

For a seasoned national blues vet, having been shut out of taking his show on the road has been tough. 

“March 8, was our last gig a year ago,” he states. “I had COVID back in October. Now (Michigan is) like number 1 in the nation. That's a concern.” 

McCray is fully vaccinated, giving him a wide horizon of possibilities into an unknown musical future, McCray was able to attend a performance taping for a Virtual Culinary Concert for the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra recently.

“I did some stuff with (Kelly) Papa Kiszka, the Greta (Van Fleet) boys’ daddy. He's got a little blues thing going on. They put a thing together (with me) and it was filmed. It's going to be on a cooking show coming up.”

Outside of the June 26 show, McCray wouldn't mind throwing his hat in the ring to be part of the Blues Brothers touring band when it fires up again.

“I played with them the last time they came through,” he says. “Blues Brothers came to Mount Pleasant – I went to the meet and greet after and Dan Akroyd said, ‘Where were you? I thought you’d come up there with your guitar?’ They were playing Windsor the next night and he said, ‘Come on across.’ I went and played. I had a great time with it!”

This show requires masks and temperature readings will be taken at the door.