Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
A top drummer during the swing era and a likable and personable singer who always displayed good humor, Ray McKinley was most significant in the 1940s in several settings. He played at the start of his career in territory bands, with Smith Ballew and then the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, staying with Jimmy after the battling Dorseys went their separate ways. In 1939, McKinley became the co-leader (in reality, if not in its name) of the new Will Bradley Orchestra. His vocals and the boogie-woogie piano playing of Freddie Slack made the band a hit with such numbers as "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" and "Celery Stalks at Midnight." By 1942, trombonist Bradley had gotten sick of the repertoire (which also included "Rock-A-Bye the Boogie," "Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat," "I Boogied When I Should Have Woogied," "Boogie Woogie Conga," "Bounce Me Brother With a Solid Four," "Booglie Wooglie Piggy," and "Fry Me Cookie With a Can of Lard") and the group broke up. McKinley led a short-lived big band and then went in the military, playing in Europe with Glenn Miller's Army Air Force Orchestra and a small group also including Peanuts Hucko and Mel Powell. After Miller's death, McKinley was one of the band's co-leaders. In 1946, he put together his own orchestra, which used some very modern arrangements by Eddie Sauter, was open to the influence of bop, and yet had a Dixieland flavor at times. Not too surprisingly, it failed to catch on (although a Savoy LP shows how strong the band could be). Ray McKinley led the Glenn Miller ghost band during 1956-1966 and freelanced with small groups and headed another Glenn Miller-type orchestra until drifting into semi-retirement.