Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dobie Gray--Drift Away (1973)

     About ten years ago, Uncle Kracker did the song, "Drift Away" with Dobie Grey. Many older types recognized it from the hit which Grey did in 1973. What many of both generations didn't know was the extent of his long career.
     Dobie, who was born near Houston, Texas in 1940 and who's career spanned soul, country, pop and even musical theater. His real name is a matter of conjuncture, but many think he was born Lawrence Darrow Brown. His grew up in a family of sharecroppers, and learned music from his grandfather who was a minister. In the early 60's, he moved to LA and recorded a few sides for local companies before meeting Sonny Bono who directed him to Stripe Records. Success eluded him, but it was there he was given the moniker, "Dobie Gray" as a take off the popular sitcom, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis". It was 1963 that he had his first taste of chart action with the song, "Look at Me" which did well regionally. It was two years later before he found his way there again, but this time it was all the way to the top 20 with, "The In Crowd" which had been an instrumental hit for Ramsey Lewis earlier that year. Gray's vocal rendition made it to number 13.
     Getting a follow up success was difficult and in the meantime he took up acting, getting a spot in the LA production of the musical, "Hair" which he stayed on for over two years. When joining a band in 1970 called, "Pollution" which was probably best known for it's manager, Max Baer Jr. (Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies) than for anything they put on vinyl.  During this time, he also recorded a series of demos with songwriter Paul Williams. It was Paul's brother, Mentor who produced Dobie's first solo album with Decca, who signed him in 1972. They went to Nashville to record, and it was one of Mentor's songs, "Drift Away" which became the single. It went to number 5 on the charts, and it's redo in 2003 with Uncle Kracker also hit the top ten.
     Although he recorded throughout the 70's with minor success, he moved to Nashville and concentrated on songwriting, writing for artists as diverse as Don Williams, George Jones, Johnny Mathis, and Ray Charles. He even had a moderate hit on the country charts with his single, "That's One To Grow On" in 1986. After his comeback to the charts in 03, he continued to tour until after a long battle with cancer he died in December of 2011.


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