Los Angeles, California

With the frame and commanding bearing of a man who spent a decade serving in the Marine Corps, blues singer Sugaray Rayford is an imposing presence. What comes through in his music, however, is a rich and soulful emotional vitality that has made him a rising star among American blues artists, with recent accolades at the Blues Music Awards that include two-time Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year, 2020 B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, and 2023 Soul Blues Album of the Year for his latest album In Too Deep.

Caron “Sugaray” Rayford first developed his musical gifts in the church. His early years in Texas were filled with both love and hardship: his single mother died of cancer when he was 11, but he had the stabilizing presence of the beloved grandmother who raised him and his brothers. Rayford began singing and playing drums at age five, eventually leading the choir. Like many artists raised in the Black church, he says, “My gospel roots are always going to be there, I don’t think of it as gospel, soul, or blues; I just think of it as being real.”

Rayford moved to California during his service as a Marine. After retiring from the Corps, he was working as a bouncer when music beckoned once again; Sugaray’s expressive vocals often got him invited onstage by the house band at the blues club across the street. With the encouragement of his wife Pam, he restarted a music career in 2000. By 2008, he was hosting the famous Monday night “pro jam” at Cozy’s, a gig that connected him with world-class musicians who both broadened his musical vision and reinforced his profound commitment to the blues.

Sugaray Rayford’s solo career has racked up critical acclaim, including the aforementioned Blues Music Awards, and a Grammy nomination and Muddy Award for his 2019 album, Somebody Save Me. Sugaray’s band includes a horn section; he put the line-up together because he “wanted to bring back that gospel, soulful sound that you can’t get without horns … a tapestry that’s really thick and really soothing.” But he also knows that sometimes a voice is all that’s needed: when he sings his nearly a cappella version of Son House’s signature “Death Letter Blues,” a favorite song he dedicates to his grandmother, he connects listeners to the profound emotional power that defines the blues.

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