Cool stamps tell the tale of a rhythm 'n' blues travellin' man

ROBERT CRAY keeps his blue American passport in pristine condition with a little green leather cover that he bought in Dublin. He laughs: "I bought the cover in a gift shop. It has `passport' written on it, and it's made for American tourists like me!"

Most of the stamps in Robert's passport have been acquired while he's been touring, not holidaying. Having formed a band, his first trip abroad was in 1984 when they played all over Europe. "We were doing a bunch of festivals and clubs. We had to travel by train and ferry, playing a show a night. I don't even remember being in England, the tour was so fast." The same year Cray went to Japan to be the opening act for blues legend John Lee Hooker. "I remember how the people mobbed John Lee," says Cray. "Japanese audiences are polite, but at the very end when John Lee would get up and do the `Boogie', people would mob the stage. Still playing, the base player would lie down on his side and kick people off the stage. I'd never seen anything like it before." Tokyo is Cray's favourite place in the world. Not only does he like the fact that it is an very modern city where everything runs smoothly and the people are congenial, but it is also where he met his English wife Sue. "We met in '88. Sue was modelling in Tokyo. I was sitting outdoors at a Japanese restaurant and Sue walked up with a friend and said they'd just seen the show. We hung out and played pool, and after we said goodnight we stayed in contact over the telephone until we met up again in Detroit." The couple have been married for seven years, and Sue has given up modelling to become an actress. Cray says: "Sue had a tiny part in the movie James and the Giant Peach - she played James's mum at the very beginning."

Cray has released 10 albums, won four Grammy awards, worked with the likes of Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Tina Turner and performed all over the world. "There are some pretty cool-looking stamps in my passport - Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil and lots of different places in Europe. In fact, I had to have my passport renewed because I ran out of space. American passports are small and they stick in these accordion pages that extend out. My old passport had five or six of those."

ROSANNA GREENSTREET

Robert Cray's new R&B, blues and soul album is called `Sweet Potato Pie'

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