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Dobie Gray

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Dobie Gray (July 26, 1940 - December 6th 2011) was an African American singer and songwriter, whose musical career spanned soul, country, pop and musical theater. His hit records 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.

Gray was born near Houston, Texas, by his own account in Simonton although some sources suggest the nearby town of Brookshire. His birth name was probably Lawrence Darrow Brown, who is listed in the Fort Bend County Birth Records as being born in 1940 to Jane P. Spencel and Jethro Clifton Brown. Other sources suggest he may have been born Leonard Victor Ainsworth, a name he used on some early recordings.
His family were sharecroppers, and he discovered gospel music through his grandfather, a Baptist minister. In the early 1960s he moved to Los Angeles, intending to pursue an acting career but 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 towards 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. His first taste of success came in 1963, when his seventh single “Look At Me”, on the Cor-Dak label, recorded with bassist Carol Kaye, reached # 91 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, Gray’s first album, Look!, failed to sell.

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