By Donna Britt | August 24, 2016 at 1:31 AM CDT – Updated July 24 at 2:02 PM
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – The house on Ritterman was a complete shock the first time I visited. I profiled Henry Gray for Black History month back in February.
Back then, his live-in caretaker Wanda Smith complained that the home had poor wiring and that plugging in more than two things at once would throw a breaker in the house.
Imagine my shock again when I met Gray and his great grandson DeAndre Tate at the house to see its contents at the curb and the inside still swimming in mold and slim.
Henry Gray has been staying with loved ones, but came back to tell me about his experience. Tate is still in the process of emptying everything out of Gray’s Choctaw-area home and finding a new place for him to live. Gray would want that.
He’s a very independent, energetic, clear-thinking 91-year-old. As he and I walk through the house, I can’t help but pick at what’s still left. Did his famous white tie with piano keys and “Henry Gray &the Cats” make it? No one has seen it.
I think of it as a signature because it was the cover art for Gray’s CD in 2009. He grabs the microphone that is now on the destroyed electric piano he once played to shake the rafters of his home.
“See if it dries out, right?” I ask. He nods.
Gray showed me the bedroom where he discovered the water coming in. He said three or four feet of water filled the house.
“This is the bedroom right here,” he gestured. ” When I woke up, water was in the bed. That’s what woke me. It wet my elbow. So I got up and then I saw the snake! Well I had to get him!” We both laughed.
I keep finding hats that to me are one of his hallmarks. He looks good in hats and wears them. I showed him one and he said “See, it’s so moldy.” And it dawned on me, he’s really not sentimental about his hats.
Pictures are wet and soggy. Pictures from his days back in the 1940s Chicago Blues Scene. He helped forge the style of Chicago Blues piano.
In Baton Rouge, he’s played everywhere in the world. People love him in Germany, Finland, Asia. You name it. Henry said he plans to keep performing. He’ll just do it while he tries to find a new place to live.
Bob Corritore, a Phoenix blues performer and studio owner, started a GoFundMe account for Henry Gray.