Diamond Jim Greene recalls that as a boy growing up on Chicago’s south side in the 1950s his first conscious encounter with the blues was seeing the blind, wandering troubadour Arvella Gray strumming his open-tuned National Steel guitar, playing with one maimed hand and singing about John Henry the Steel Drivin’ Man.
Through multiple relocations Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kansas, West Virginia and finally California that visual and aural image of Arvella Gray has never left him. For more than twenty- five years he has played acoustic guitar (12 string and National Steel) solo, or with a harmonica player, or with his band, The Blues Ambassadors.
He has become adept at both Piedmont and Delta styles of blues guitar, influenced by the playing of Blind Willie McTell, Blind Boy Fuller, Son House, and Robert Johnson, and his more contemporary influencers have included Cephas and Wiggins, John Jackson, Archie Edwards, Paul Geremia, Roy Bookbinder and Honeyboy Edwards, many of whom he has played alongside. Currently based here in Chicago, his fifth and latest CD, on the Cooling Board label, is titled Surrounded.