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Roy Ayers

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Roy Ayers
Ayers performing at Glastonbury Festival in 2019
Ayers performing at Glastonbury Festival in 2019
Background information
Born (1940-09-10) September 10, 1940 (age 83)
Los Angeles, California, US
  • Musician
  • composer
  • singer
  • band leader
  • record producer
Years active1962–present
WebsiteOfficial website

Roy Ayers (born September 10, 1940) is an American vibraphonist, record producer and composer.[1] Ayers began his career as a post-bop jazz artist, releasing several albums with Atlantic Records, before his tenure at Polydor Records beginning in the 1970s, during which he helped pioneer jazz-funk.[2] He is a key figure in the acid jazz movement,[3] and has been dubbed "The Godfather of Neo Soul".[4] He is best known for his compositions "Everybody Loves the Sunshine", "Lifeline", and "No Stranger To Love" and other that charted in the 1970s.[5] At one time, he was said to have more sampled hits by rappers than any other artist.[6]


Early life[edit]

Ayers was born on September 10, 1940, in Los Angeles.[2] He grew up in a musical family, where his father played trombone and his mother played piano.[7] At the age of five, he was given his first pair of vibraphone mallets by Lionel Hampton.[8] The area of Los Angeles that Ayers grew up in, South Park (later known as South Central) was at the center of the Southern California Black music scene.[9] He attended Thomas Jefferson High School that formed a formative part of the Central Avenue jazz scene.[10][11] During high school, Ayers sang in the church choir[12] and fronted a band named The Latin Lyrics, in which he played steel guitar and piano.[13] His high school, Thomas Jefferson High School, produced various talented musicians, such as Dexter Gordon. Ayers has three children.


Ayers started recording as a bebop sideman in 1962 and rose to prominence when he dropped out of Los Angeles City College[14] and joined jazz flautist Herbie Mann in 1966.[15]

In the early 1970s, Roy Ayers started his own band called Roy Ayers Ubiquity, a name he chose because ubiquity means a state of being everywhere at the same time.[16]

Ayers was responsible for the highly regarded soundtrack to Jack Hill's 1973 blaxploitation film Coffy, which starred Pam Grier. He played Elgin in Idaho Transfer the same year. He later moved from a jazz-funk sound to R&B, as seen on Mystic Voyage, which featured the songs "Evolution" and the underground disco hit "Brother Green (The Disco King)", as well as the title track from his 1976 album Everybody Loves the Sunshine.

Ayers in 1976

In 1977, Ayers produced an album by the group RAMP, Come into Knowledge. That fall, he had his biggest hit with "Running Away".

In late 1979, Ayers scored his only top ten single on Billboard's Hot Disco/Dance chart with "Don't Stop The Feeling", which was also the leadoff single from his 1980 album No Stranger to Love, whose title track was sampled in Jill Scott's 2001 song "Watching Me" from her debut album Who Is Jill Scott?

In the late 1970s, Ayers toured Nigeria for six weeks with Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, one of Africa's most recognizable musicians.[17] In 1980, Phonodisk released Music of Many Colors in Nigeria, featuring one side led by Ayers' group and the other led by Africa '70.[7][18]

In 1981, Ayers produced an album with the singer Sylvia Striplin, Give Me Your Love (Uno Melodic Records, 1981).[7] That same year, he also produced a second album called Africa, Center of the World on Polydor Records along with James Bedford and Ayers's bass player William Henry Allen. Allen can be heard talking to his daughter on the track "Intro/The River Niger". The album was recorded at the Sigma Sound Studios, New York.

In 1984 he released the LP In The Dark recorded with Columbia Records and produced by bassist Stanley Clarke. The LP produced the 12" single release called Love is in the feel which, along with other tracks on the album, promoted the use of a LinnDrum an instrument which gained enormous popularity amongst pop and jazz funk musicians from 1982 to 1985. At this time Ayers' music was promoted extensively by the UK BBC Radio 1 disc jockey Robbie Vincent.

Ayers performed a solo on John "Jellybean" Benitez's production of Whitney Houston's "Love Will Save The Day" from her second multi-Platinum studio album Whitney. The single was released in July 1988 by Arista Records.

Ayers has played his live act for millions of people across the globe, including Japan, Australia, England and other parts of Europe.[19]

Ayers is known for helping to popularize feel-good music in the 1970s, stating that "I like that happy feeling all of the time, so that ingredient is still there. I try to generate that because it's the natural way I am".[20] The types of music that he used to do this consisted of funk, salsa, jazz, rock, soul and rap.[21]

1990s to present[edit]

Ayers performing in Perth, Australia, 2011

In 1992, Ayers released two albums, Drive and Wake Up, for the hip-hop label Ichiban Records.[7] and also collaborated with Rick James for an album and is quoted to have been a very close friend of his.[22]

In 1993, Ayers appeared on the record Guru's Jazzmatazz Vol. 1, playing vibraphone on the song "Take a Look (At Yourself)". The following year he appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African-American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by Time Magazine.

During the 2000s and 2010s, Ayers ventured into house music, collaborating with such stalwarts of the genre as Masters at Work and Kerri Chandler.

Ayers started two record labels, Uno Melodic and Gold Mink Records. The first released several LPs, including Sylvia Striplin's, while the second folded after a few singles.[7]

In 2004, Ayers put out a collection of unreleased recordings called Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased recordings 1976–1981 which allowed fans to hear cuts that didn't make it onto the classic Polydor albums from his more popular years.[23]

He has also worked in collaborations with soul singer Erykah Badu and other artists on his 2004 album Mahogany Vibes.[24]

Ayers hosts the fictitious radio station "Fusion FM" in Grand Theft Auto IV (2008).

In 2015, he appeared on Tyler, The Creator's album Cherry Bomb on the track "Find Your Wings".[25]

Awards and influence[edit]

A documentary, The Roy Ayers Project, featuring Ayers and a number of artists who have sampled his music and have been influenced by him and his music, has been in development for a number of years. The Roy Ayers Project has been rebranded as "Roy Ayers Connection", which highlights Roy Ayers and all the people and things that he is connected to.[26]

Pharrell Williams cites Roy Ayers as one of his key musical heroes.[27]

Ayers is a recipient of the Congress of Racial Equality Lifetime Achievement Award.[28]


As leader[edit]

  • West Coast Vibes (United Artists, 1963)
  • Virgo Vibes (Atlantic, 1967)
  • Stoned Soul Picnic (Atlantic, 1968)
  • Daddy Bug (Atlantic, 1969)
  • All Blues (Columbia, 1969)
  • Unchain My Heart (Columbia, 1970)
  • Ubiquity (Polydor, 1970)
  • Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival (Polydor, 1972)
  • He's Coming (Polydor, 1972)
  • Virgo Red (Polydor, 1973)
  • Red Black & Green (Polydor, 1973)
  • Coffy (1973)
  • Change Up the Groove (Polydor, 1974)
  • Mystic Voyage (Polydor, 1975)
  • A Tear to a Smile (Polydor, 1975)
  • Daddy Bug & Friends (Atlantic, 1976)
  • Everybody Loves the Sunshine (Polydor, 1976)
  • Vibrations (Polydor, 1976)
  • Lifeline (Polydor, 1977)
  • You Send Me (Polydor, 1978)
  • Step in to Our Life (Polydor, 1978)
  • Starbooty (Elektra, 1978)
  • Let's Do It (Polydor, 1978)
  • Fever (Polydor, 1979)
  • No Stranger to Love (Polydor, 1979)
  • Love Fantasy (Polydor, 1980)
  • Africa, Center of the World (Polydor, 1981)
  • Feeling Good (Polydor, 1982)
  • Lots of Love (Uno Melodic, 1983)
  • In the Dark (Columbia, 1984)
  • You Might Be Surprised (Columbia, 1985)
  • I'm the One (Columbia, 1987)
  • Drive (Ichiban, 1988)
  • Wake Up (Ichiban, 1989)
  • Searchin' (Jazz House, 1991)
  • Hot (Jazz House, 1992)
  • Good Vibrations (Jazz House, 1993)
  • The Essential Groove Live (Jazz House, 1994)
  • Nasté (RCA Records, 1995)
  • Mahogany Vibe (Rapster, 2004)


  1. ^ Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 25. ISBN 0-141-00646-3.
  2. ^ a b Parker, Chris (2000). "Roy Ayers". Jazz: the Rough Guide (2nd ed.). London: Rough Guides. p. 27. ISBN 9781858285283.
  3. ^ Reynolds, J.R. (February 4, 1995). "Polydor Give Chronicles Treatment To JB's, Ayers". Billboard Magazine. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 12.
  4. ^ Fordham, John (August 11, 2012). "Roy Ayers, Brecon & London in this week's new live music". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  5. ^ "Roy Ayers Billboard Chart Listing". Billboard. Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  6. ^ Mitter, Siddhartha (July 29, 2005). "Still ubiquitous". Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  7. ^ a b c d e Ginell, Richard S. (September 10, 1940). "Allmusic biography". Allmusic.com. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  8. ^ Wang, Grace (February 4, 2021). "We spoke to Mr Sunshine himself - The Legendary Roy Ayers". Bonafide. Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  9. ^ Jackson, Nate (November 17, 2011). "Roy Ayers: man of the mallet and the moment". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 11, 2024.
  10. ^ Bryant, Clora (1998). Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles. University of California Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-520-22098-0.
  11. ^ "Roy Ayers Biography and Interview". History Makers. September 19, 2016.
  12. ^ Maxwell, Michele. "Roy Ayers: A Musical Perfectionist." Hyde Park Citizen Jan. 1, 2000: 24. Print.
  13. ^ Nichol, Alan. "Ayers Rocks." Evening Chronicle January 1, 2005, 01B ed.: 2. Print.
  14. ^ Shuler, Deardra. "Roy Ayers Sampled by Major Hip Hop Artists." New York Beacon January 1, 2006: 28. Print.
  15. ^ Massimo, Rick. "The Sound of Music – Roy Ayers Has That Jazz Vibe Going:." The Providence Journal January 1, 2005: F.23. Print.
  16. ^ Shuler, Deardra. "Roy Ayers: Everybody Loves His 'Sunshine'" New York Amsterdam News1 Jan. 2010: 23. Print.
  17. ^ No Author. "An Open Letter from Roy Ayers." The Indianapolis Recorder January 1, 1980: 10. Print.
  18. ^ "Fela Anikulapo Kuti* And Roy Ayers - Music Of Many Colours". Discogs. 1980. Retrieved February 16, 2016.
  19. ^ Thomas, Don. "Roy Ayers Is Definitely Lyrically Correct With 'Spoken Word'" New York Beacon January 1, 1998: 26. Print.
  20. ^ White, Tony. "Warm Vibes Flow in the Sunshine of Roy Ayers." American Red Star January 1, 1998: B.9. Print.
  21. ^ Thomas, Don. "Vibist Roy Ayers: As Jazzy As Ever." New York Beacon Jan. 1, 1995: 27. Print.
  22. ^ Siobhan, Kane. "No Wonder Everyone Wants to Sample the Great Vibes of Roy Ayers: Ayers Is Pivotal in Funk and Jazz, and Has Stories of Working with Fela Kuti and Rick James." Irish Times January 1, 2014: 13. Print.
  23. ^ Richens, Mark. "COLLECTION OF UNRELEASED RECORDINGS FROM AYERS PROVES HIS VIBE MASTERY." The Commercial Appeal Jan. 1, 2004: G30. Print.
  24. ^ Williams, Damon C (October 5, 2004). "Father of fusion Roy Ayers connects with the stars on latest album". Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Archived from the original on April 17, 2018. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  25. ^ "Tyler, The Creator Interview w/ Bootleg Kev 'Fuck Target', Bruce Jenner, & More". YouTube. April 16, 2015. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  26. ^ Jackson, Nate. "Roy Ayers: Man of the Mallet and the Moment." Los Angeles Times January 1, 2011: D.10. Print.
  27. ^ Butler, Kate. "Roy Ayers: [Final 5 Edition]." Sunday Times January 1, 2004: 39. Print.
  28. ^ No Author. "Jazz Great Roy Ayers to Perform at PJC." Pensacola News Journal January 1, 2006: B.1. Print.

External links[edit]