Singer-Songwriter Dobie Gray Has Died

(L-R): Jackson Browne, Mentor Williams, Paul Williams and Dobie Gray at the 2003 ASCAP Awards

Dobie Gray

Singer and songwriter Dobie Gray, best known for recording the 1973 classic “Drift Away,” died yesterday (12/6). He was 71. Gray had called Nashville home since the 1970s.

Varying reports list his birth name as Lawrence Darrow Brown and Leonard Victor Ainsworth. The Houston native made his way to Los Angeles in the ‘60s to pursue an entertainment career, particularly theater. In LA, he met Sonny Bono, who helped guide his early path, and  eventually signed with Almo/Irving as a songwriter.

By the early ‘70s Gray was working in Nashville as an artist. Quadrafonic Studios, which was then owned by renowned session musicians Norbert Putnam and David Briggs, is where he recorded the Mentor Williams-penned “Drift Away.” He followed that with the hit “Loving Arms.”

Dobie Gray with Charlie Daniels at Daniels' 1979 Volunteer Jam. Photo: Alan Mayor

Throughout Gray’s career, his label homes included Decca, Decca, Capricorn, and Capitol. He charted a few other singles over the decades, such as the mid-80s Harold Shedd-produced country tracks “That’s One to Grow On” and “From Where I Stand.”

Gray also focused on songwriting, garnering cuts by Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, George Jones, Don Williams, Exile, John Conlee, Tammy Wynette, Etta James, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Three Dog Night, Julio Iglesias, and John Denver. Click here for a complete list. He was also a successful jingle writer, penning the famed ditty “Momma’s Got The Magic of Clorox 2.”

“Drift Away” became a hit again in 2003, when it was covered by Uncle Kracker, featuring Gray as a guest vocalist.

 

 

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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