Dobie Gray

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Dobie Gray
Gray in the Netherlands, 1974
Gray in the Netherlands, 1974
Background information
Birth nameLawrence Darrow Brown
Also known as
  • Leonard Ainsworth
  • Larry Curtis
  • Larry Dennis
  • Larry Brown
Born(1940-07-26)July 26, 1940
Simonton, Texas, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 2011(2011-12-06) (aged 71)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresSoul, R&B, pop, country
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsVocals, piano, keyboards, guitar
Years active1960–2011
LabelsDecca, White Whale Infinity
Associated acts

Dobie Gray (born Lawrence Darrow Brown; July 26, 1940 – December 6, 2011) was an American singer and songwriter, whose musical career spanned soul, country, pop, and musical theater. His hit songs included "The 'In' Crowd" in 1965 and "Drift Away", which was one of the biggest hits of 1973, sold over one million copies, and remains a staple of radio airplay.[1]


Gray was born in Simonton, Texas.[2][3] His birth name was most likely Lawrence Darrow Brown,[3][4] listed in Fort Bend County birth records as being born in 1940 to Jane and Jethro C. Brown. Other sources suggest he may have been born Leonard Victor Ainsworth,[1] a name he used on some early recordings.

His family sharecropped. He discovered gospel music through his grandfather, a Baptist minister.[2]


In the early 1960s Gray moved to Los Angeles, intending to pursue an acting career while also singing to make money. He recorded for several local labels under the names Leonard Ainsworth, Larry Curtis, and Larry Dennis, before Sonny Bono directed him toward the small independent Stripe Records. They suggested that he record under the name "Dobie Gray", an allusion to the then-popular sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.[3]

His first taste of success came in 1962 when his seventh single "Look At Me", on the Cor-Dak label and recorded with bassist Carol Kaye,[5] reached No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100.[4][6]

However, his first album Look! failed to sell.[5] Greater success came in early 1965 when his original recording of "The 'In' Crowd" (recorded later that year as an instrumental by Ramsey Lewis, and also covered in 1965 by Petula Clark) reached No. 13. Written by Billy Page and arranged by his brother, Gene[7] and produced by Fred Darian,[4][8] Gray's record reached No. 11 on the US R&B chart, and No. 25 in the UK. The follow-up, "See You at the Go-Go", recorded with such top session musicians as Kaye, Hal Blaine, and Larry Knechtel, also reached the Hot 100, and he issued an album, Dobie Gray Sings for 'In' Crowders That Go 'Go Go,' which featured some self-penned songs.[5]

Gray continued to record, albeit with little success, for small labels such as Charger and White Whale, as well as contributing to movie soundtracks.[6] He also spent several years working as an actor, including two and a half years in the Los Angeles production of Hair.[1][3]

In 1970, while working there, he joined a band, Pollution, as singer and percussionist. They were managed by actor Max Baer Jr. (best known as "Jethro" in The Beverly Hillbillies) and released two albums of soul-inspired psychedelic rock, Pollution I and Pollution II.[5][9] The band included singer Tata Vega and guitarist/singer James Quill Smith. He also worked at A&M Records on demo recordings with songwriter Paul Williams.[3]

In 1972, he signed a recording contract with Decca Records (shortly before it became part of MCA) to make an album with producer Mentor Williams—Paul's brother—in Nashville. Among the songs they recorded at the Quadrafonic Sound Studios, co-owned by session musicians Norbert Putnam and David Briggs, was Mentor Williams' "Drift Away", featuring a guitar riff by Reggie Young.[3][10] Released as a single, the song rose to No. 5 on the US pop chart and remains Dobie Gray's signature song.[1] It placed at No. 17 in the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1973, sold over 1 million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on July 5, 1973.[11] The follow-up, a version of Tom Jans' much-covered song "Loving Arms", hit No. 61. Gray also released three albums with MCA, Drift Away, Loving Arms, and Hey, Dixie, but later stated that MCA were unsure of how to market the albums -- "They didn't know where to place a black guy in country music."[3]

In the mid-1970s, he moved permanently to Nashville and signed with Capricorn Records, writing songs in collaboration with Troy Seals.[1] His last solo hit singles were "If Love Must Go", No. 78 in 1976, and "You Can Do It", No. 37 in 1978.[4] He increasingly concentrated on songwriting, writing songs for a variety of artists including Ray Charles, George Jones, Johnny Mathis, Charley Pride, and Don Williams.[3][6] He also toured in Europe, Australia and Africa in the 1970s. He performed in South Africa only after persuading the apartheid authorities to allow him to play to integrated audiences, becoming the first artist to do so.[1] His popularity in South Africa continued through numerous subsequent concert tours.[2][3]

In 1981, Dobie Gray was included on a Word Records/Myrrh Contemporary Christian Music showcase called Premier Performance. Dobie was featured on two selections: "Everything To Me" and Walter Carter's "Last Train To Glory".[12]

Dobie Gray re-emerged as a recording artist for Capitol Records in the mid-1980s, recording with producer Harold Shedd. He placed two singles on the US country chart in 1986–87, including "That's One to Grow On" which peaked at No. 35.[1][13] His country albums included From Where I Stand in 1986, and he made several appearances at Charlie Daniels' popular Volunteer Jam concerts.[6] He also sang on a number of TV and radio jingles.[3] Gray sang the song "Paradise Road" that appeared in the 1988 film Blind Justice that starred Christopher Cazenove, Patrick Shai, Oliver Reed and Edita Brychta.[14][15]

In 1997, he released the album Diamond Cuts, including both new songs and re-recordings of older material.[1]

In 2000, Wigan Casino DJ Kev Roberts, compiled The Northern Soul Top 500, which was based on a survey of Northern soul fans.[16] Gray's "Out on the Floor", a 1966 recording which would become a British hit in 1975, made the Top 10.[citation needed]

"Drift Away" became a hit again in 2003, when he covered the song as a duet with Uncle Kracker on the latter's No Stranger to Shame album. The re-recording peaked at No. 9 one week to the day after Gray's 63rd birthday and placed at No. 19 in the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2003 as well as logging a record-setting 28 weeks atop the Adult Contemporary chart in 2003–04.[citation needed]

Death and loss of material[edit]

Gray died on December 6, 2011, of complications from cancer surgery in Nashville, Tennessee, aged 71.[17] His remains were buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park And Mausoleum in Nashville.

Dobie Gray was among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[18]



  • Look (Stripe, 1963)
  • Dobie Gray Sings for "In" Crowders That Go "Go-Go" (Charger, 1965, Collectibles, 1987)
  • Pollution [as Lead Singer] (Prophecy/Atlantic, 1970)
  • Pollution II [as Lead Singer] (Prophecy/Atlantic, 1971)
  • Drift Away (Decca/MCA, 1973) US No. 64, AUS No. 63[19]
  • Loving Arms (MCA, 1973) US No. 188
  • Hey Dixie (MCA, 1975) AUS No. 94[19]
  • New Ray of Sunshine (Capricorn, 1975)
  • Let Go (Capricorn, 1977)
  • The Best of Dobie Gray (Gallo, 1978)
  • Dobie Gray & Mary Wells (Gusto Inc., 1978)
  • Mellow Man (Capricorn, 1978)
  • Midnight Diamond (Infinity, 1978) US No. 174, R&B No. 72, AUS No. 89[19]
  • Dobie Gray (Infinity, 1979)
  • Welcome Home (Equity / Robox, 1981)
  • Premiere Performance (Myrrh, 1981)
  • From Where I Stand (Capitol/EMI/Amer., 1986)
  • Love's Talkin’ (Capitol/EMI/Amer., 1987)
  • Dobie Gray: His Very Best (Razor & Tie, 1996)
  • Diamond Cuts (Dobie Gray Prods., 1998)
  • Soul Days (CDMemphis, 2001)
  • Dobie Gray: The Ultimate (Universal Hip-O, 2001)
  • Songs of the Season (Dobie Gray Prods., 2001)
  • Dobie Gray: A Decade of Dobie (1969–1979) (UMG/Select-O-Hits, 2005)


Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
US R&B US AC US Country AUS[19] CAN CAN AC CAN Country UK[22]
1963 "Look at Me" 91  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —
1965 "The 'In' Crowd" 13 11  —  —  — 8 25
"See You at the Go-Go" 69
1969 "Rose Garden" 119 89
1973 "Drift Away" 5 42 12 44 7
"Loving Arms" 61 81 7 67 2
"Good Old Song" 103
1974 "Watch Out for Lucy" 107
1975 "Roll On Sweet Mississippi" 84
"Out on the Floor" 42
1976 "If Love Must Go" 78
"Find 'Em, Fool 'Em & Forget 'Em" 94 71
1979 "You Can Do It" 37 32 96 58
"The In Crowd" 47
1986 "That's One to Grow On" 35
"The Dark Side of Town" 42 48
"From Where I Stand" 67
1987 "Take It Real Easy" 82
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released to that country

Featured singles[edit]

Year Single Artist Peak chart positions Album
US US Country US Adult US AC US Pop NZ
1985 "One Big Family" Heart of Nashville 61 single only
2003 "Drift Away" Uncle Kracker 9 2 1 10 25 No Stranger to Shame

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
1985 "One Big Family" (Heart of Nashville) Steve Von Hagel

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Huey, Steve. "Dobie Gray Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Dobie Gray biodata". Dobie Gray Website. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ellis, Bill (July 29, 2000). "Get Lost in the Rock and Roll of 'Drift Away' Dobie Gray". The Commercial Appeal.
  4. ^ a b c d Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menominee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 291. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  5. ^ a b c d "Dobie Gray, "Drift Away", "Loving Arms", "The In-Crowd"". July 16, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d "Dobie Gray biography". July 26, 1940. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  7. ^ Ed Hogan (September 13, 1940). "Gene Page | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  8. ^ "Fred Darian biography". Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  9. ^ "Play It Again, Max: Pollution - I (1971) & II (1972)". September 20, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  10. ^ Daley, Dan (January 9, 2008). "Classic Tracks: Dobie Gray's "Drift Away"". Mixonline. Archived from the original on August 25, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  11. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 136. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  12. ^ "Dobie Gray: The "Drift Away" man on the "Last Train To Glory" - Dobie Gray". Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  13. ^ "Dobie Gray Billboard Singles". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  14. ^ IMDb - Blind Justice (1988), Soundtracks
  15. ^ - Blind Justice, Créditos, Reparto
  16. ^ " Parker...Northern Soul 500". Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  17. ^ Vitello, Paul (December 7, 2011). "Dobie Gray, Singer Known for 'Drift Away', Dies". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c d Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 129. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  20. ^ "Dobie Gray, "Drift Away", "Loving Arms", "The In-Crowd"". July 16, 2012. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  21. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
  22. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 235. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  23. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - November 21, 2010: Dobie Gray certified singles". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on February 25, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2010.

External links[edit]