The drumming of Ray McKinley was a driving force
that contributed greatly to the success of Jimmy Dorsey before WWII and the
Glenn Miller American Band Of The Allied Expeditionary Forces during the war. As
part of the Will Bradley aggregation, which he co-led between his stints with
Dorsey and Miller, his personable and humorous vocals were an added attraction.|
McKinley's first sides were recorded with Red
Nichols for the Brunswick record label. Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey were also
members of this nine piece Nichols group that waxed five sides over two sessions
in the spring and early summer of 1931. In 1932 McKinley again worked with Glenn
Miller in the Smith-Ballew band as well as in the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra in
1934-5. In May of 1934 he recorded four sides with a Benny Goodman small group
that included Charlie and Jack Teagarden, Teddy Wilson and others.
When the fueding Dorsey Brothers broke up in
1935 McKinley joined Jimmy Dorsey, in his new orchestra, where he remained until
1939. Although the Jimmy Dorsey band did not achieve the fame that brother
Tommy’s band did, it waxed some fine swinging sides driven by McKinley on skins.
Parade Of The Milk Bottle Caps
and John Silver
were two of the most well known instrumental recordings of the group and both
were enhanced greatly by McKinley's impeccable timekeeping and occasional fiery
In 1939 Ray McKinley became a partner of
trombonist Will Bradley co-leading a band that recorded under Bradley's name.
This band, that also featured Freddie Slack on piano, cut dozens of
boogie-woogie laden sides for Columbia between September of 1939 and January of
1942. Many were hits, some featuring McKinley’s humorous and personable vocals
and one line shouts like on Celery
Stalks At Midnight and
Fry Me Cookie In A Can Of Lard.
Unfortunately there was friction between the two stars.
Beat Me Daddy Eight To The Bar
and Bounce Me Brother With a Solid
Four type numbers wore on Bradley,
as so did the syrupy trombone ballads of Bradley wear on McKinley. The two had a
less than amicable split in 1942 as reported by Down Beat magazine.
In 1942 McKinley formed his own short-lived
band recording briefly for Capitol and then joined the Army. While in the
service he joined Glenn Miller’s AEF band and while in Europe formed his own “Swing
Shift” group culled from the heart
of Miller’s band and spotlighting, among others, pianist Mel Powell and reed man
Peanuts Hucko. The Miller Allied Expeditionary Forces band waxed numerous
incredibly swinging tunes in London's Abbey Road studios during the war. These
recordings have since been released on CD and find McKinley really driving the
very large outfit on numbers like
Jeep Jockey Jump,
et. al. After Miller’s disappearance McKinley
co-led Glenn Miller's American Band Of The Allied Expeditionary Forces briefly
with Jerry Gray.
Back in the U.S. Ray formed his own civilian
band again recording for Majestic in 1946 and Victor from 1947-50, this time
using the rich arrangements of Eddie Sauter and Dean Kincaide and featuring
players like Peanuts Hucko and Mundell Lowe, and later adding Joe Farrante, Sam
Butera, Buddy Morrow and others.
From ’50-‘55 McKinley free-lanced, occasionally
leading his own bands, and working as a TV singer in NYC. In 1956 he was
commissioned by the widow of Glenn Miller to organize a new band under Miller’s
name using the original library and style. This band made a successful tour of
Iron Curtain countries in 1957 and continued to tour the U.S. until 1966.
McKinley then free-lanced again, leading an orchestra under his own name and
recording for Dot in 1966. He also played drums in yet another incarnation of
the Glenn Miller Orchestra, fronted by Buddy DeFranco, and recorded for Columbia
House in 1972. His last recording session was cut with just himself on drums and
pianist Lou Stein, who recorded five sides together for the Chiaroscuro label in
Ray McKinley died May 7th, 1995 in Largo,