(born Lawrence Darrow Brown on July 26, 1940 – December 6, 2011)
Dobie Gray (born Lawrence Darrow Brown on July 26, 1940 – December 6, 2011) was an 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.
He was born near Houston, Texas, by his own account in Simonton although some sources suggest the nearby town of Brookshire. His birth name was most likely Lawrence Darrow Brown, who is listed in 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 sharecropped. 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 while 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 and recorded with bassist Carol Kaye, reached #91 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, his first album, Look!, failed to sell. Greater success came in early 1965 when his original recording of “The ‘In’ Crowd” (recorded later that year as an instrumental by Ramsey Lewis, and also covered in 1965 by Petula Clark) reached #13. Written by Billy Page and arranged by his brother Gene, and produced by Fred Darian, Dobie Gray’s record reached #11 on the US R&B chart, and #25 in the UK. The follow-up, “See You at the Go-Go”, recorded with such top session musicians as Kaye, Hal Blaine, and Larry Knechtel, also reached the Hot 100, and he issued an album, Dobie Gray Sings For ‘In’ Crowders That Go Go Go, which featured some self-penned songs.
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