He started on piano at age five, and later played accordion and bass. McClure studied privately with Joseph Iadone and, later, with Hall Overton and Don Sebesky.
McClure attended the Hartt School of Music, graduating in 1963 and worked in the Buddy Rich Sextet the same year. He then joined Maynard Ferguson's big band and, afterwards, Herbie Mann in 1964; and then assumed the bass chair in the Wynton Kelly Trio vacated by Paul Chambers in 1965 (playing behind guitarist Wes Montgomery).
From 1966 to 1969 he was a member of Charles Lloyd's "classic quartet" together with pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette, which was voted "Group of the Year" in 1967 by Downbeat Magazine.
In 1970, together with pianist-composer Mike Nock, drummer Eddie Marshall and violinist Michael White, he co-founded the jazz-rock group "The Fourth Way". He also participated in Carla Bley's innovative album, "Escalator Over The Hill".
During the 1970s, McClure worked with saxophonist Joe Henderson, with whom he joined Blood, Sweat & Tears. Henderson left before recordings were made but McClure performed on three albums: Mirror Image, New City, Live And Improvised. Henderson and McClure recorded four joint albums.
In the 1980s, McClure joined Quest, led by saxophonist Dave Liebman, which also included drummer Billy Hart and pianist Richie Beirach. He also recorded a duo album with pianist Michel Petrucciani. McClure's major engagements in the 1990s through the early 2000s were with Lee Konitz, and then with the reassembled Quest.
McClure has done sessions as a leader for Ode, Bellaphon, EPC, Steeplechase, and Ken Music. His solo output include the contributions of John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Vic Juris, Paul Bley, Richie Beirach and Randy Brecker, amongst other distinguished jazz musicians.
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With Carla Bley
- Escalator over the Hill (JCOA, 1971)
With Paul Bley
- The Nearness of You (SteepleChase, 1989)
With Charles Lloyd
- Love-In (Atlantic, 1967)
- Journey Within (Atlantic, 1967)
- Charles Lloyd in the Soviet Union (Atlantic, 1967)
- Soundtrack (Atlantic, 1968)
- Soft Hands (Steeplechase, 2006)
With Julian Priester
- Love, Hate (ECM, 1973)
With George Russell
- Live in an American Time Spiral (Soul Note, 1983)
- Efman, Donald (2010-02-11). "Ron McClure: Lookout Farms and New Moons". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
- May, Chris (2008-08-18). "Dream Weaver - The Charles Lloyd Anthology - The Atlantic Years 1966-1969". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-06-26.
- Kelman, John (2007-04-13). "Redemption - Quest Live in Europe". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-06-26.