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BIOGRAPHY

Ray McKinley with his Slingerland Radio Kings

Ray McKinley, born on June 18, 1910 in Fort Worth, Texas, was an American jazz / big band drummer, singer, and bandleader, probably best known for his extensive work with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Ray first started working with local bands in the Dallas–Fort Worth area at the age of nine. By the time he was fifteen years old Ray had left home to perform with the Smith Ballew and Duncan-Marin bands as well as such bands as Milt Shaw's Detroiters. It was in 1929, while performing with the Smith Ballew band, that Ray McKinley met trombonist, arranger, and composer, Glenn Miller — the two remained close friends until Miller's death in 1944.

McKinley and Miller both joined The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in 1934 — the first high-profile gig for McKinley. Although Miller left the band to work for Ray Noble in December 1934, McKinley remained with The Dorsey Brothers until their split in 1935.

McKinley remained with Jimmy Dorsey for four more years until he left in 1939, turning the drum chair over to Dave Tough before joining (and co-leading) a band with Will Bradley. Working as a singer while also playing the drums, McKinley recorded one of his biggest hits with Bradley in early 1940, co-writing and singing "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar." Also in 1940, a song written by Don Raye for Will Bradley's trio (Bradley, McKinley and Freddie Slack), "Down the Road a Piece" references McKinley in the lyrics as 'Eight Beat Mack'.

McKinley went on to form his own band after he and Bradley split in 1942. McKinley's band was short lived due to World War II, however he did manage to record for Capitol Records before breaking up the band and joining the US Army. While serving in Europe, McKinley formed his own "Swing Shift" band and also joined Glenn Miller's Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF) Band, which he co-led with arranger Jerry Gray after Miller's disappearance in December 1944.

After his military discharge in 1945, McKinley formed a modern big band that performed original material by legendary arranger, Eddie Sauter. By 1950 the music business for big bands had declined to the point that McKinley began working as a part-time band leader as well as an occasional radio and TV personality in New York City.

With the 1956 movie release of The Glenn Miller Story starring James Stewart, Ray McKinley was chosen to lead the revived Glenn Miller band, which he did for the next ten years until 1966. In 1961, McKinley, along with former Air Force band vocalist, Johnny Desmond, co-hosted a 13-week CBS-TV summer replacement series with the band called Glenn Miller Time.

Ray McKinley died on May 7, 1995 in Largo, Florida.


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