Ray McKinley Biography

18 June 1910, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, d. 7 May 1995, Largo, Florida, USA. After drumming in the dance band led by fellow Texan, singer Smith Ballew, McKinley joined the Dorsey Brothers orchestra in 1934. When the band became Jimmy Dorsey’s, after his brother Tommy walked out, McKinley remained in the drum chair until 1939. In the autumn of that year he formed a band that he co-led with Will Bradley. A string of successful novelty songs, and the use of orchestral arrangements that capitalized on the current boogie-woogie craze, helped the band to become very popular.

In 1942, he briefly led a band on his own but was then drafted into the US Army Air Force. He became a key member of Glenn Miller’s USAAF band and, following Miller’s death, took over leadership of the dance-band unit. After the war, McKinley led his own outfit for a number of years, then formed a Miller-style unit which he led until 1966. Thereafter he continued to lead bands, large and small, often geared to Miller’s music, until the late 70s. He was still active, playing at Miller reunion sessions, into the mid-80s. A fine, swinging drummer, equally at home in big bands and small groups, playing four-beat or two-beat with consummate ease, and an engaging singer, McKinley made a substantial contribution to American dance music.

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

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