Dobie Gray Biography

26 July 1940, Simonton, Texas, USA. Gray moved from Texas to California in the early 60s, where he began recording for local labels. His seventh single ‘Look At Me’ was a minor hit for the Cordak label in January 1963. The compulsive, if boastful, single ‘The ‘In’ Crowd’ (written by Billy Page) was his major breakthrough in 1965, spending several months in the Billboard pop charts and peaking at number 13. It was followed by ‘See You At The ‘Go Go’’, which featured leading session players Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye and Larry Knechtal as backing musicians. It was eight years before the singer secured another chart entry. In the intervening period, Gray worked as an actor, appearing in productions of Hair and the controversial play The Beard. He also contributed to the soundtracks for the movies Out Of Sight, Uptown Saturday Night and The Commitment.

In the early 70s Gray sang several lead vocals for a hard rock group, Pollution; they recorded two albums for the Prophecy label that were well received, but were commercial failures. He also recorded several demos for songwriter Paul Williams, whose brother Mentor, a producer, was responsible for relaunching Dobie’s singing career. The superbly crafted ‘Drift Away’ (a US Top 5 hit in February 1973), provided an artistic and commercial success that the singer followed with further examples of progressive southern rock/soul, including Tom Jans’ oft-covered ‘Loving Arms’. Relocating to Nashville, Tennessee to concentrate on his songwriting, Gray remained a popular concert draw throughout the world, including South Africa where he played to integrated audiences in defiance of the apartheid government. Minor chart successes for the Capricorn and Infinity labels followed in the late 70s, after which Gray remained quiet for several years. He resurfaced on Capitol/EMI America, recording with Nashville producer Harold Shedd and enjoyed country chart hits with ‘That’s One To Grow On’, ‘The Dark Side Of Town’ and ‘From Where I Stand’. He also made several appearances at Charlie Daniels’ hugely popular Volunteer Jam concerts. Gray’s songs have been performed by artists of the calibre of Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, Julio Iglesias, Nina Simone, Tammy Wynette and Charly Pride. He returned to the studio in the mid-90s, releasing The Diamond Cuts, which featured reworkings of his old classics alongside new material.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.