Dobie Gray (born Lawrence Darrow Brown; 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.
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 toward 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, 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.
Gray continued to record, though with little success, for small labels such as Charger and White Whale, as well as contributing to movie soundtracks. He also spent several years working as an actor, including 2½ years in the Los Angeles production of Hair.
In 1970, while working there, he joined a band, Pollution, as singer and percussionist. They were managed by actor Max Baer Jr. (best known as “Jethro” in The Beverly Hillbillies) and released two albums of soul-inspired psychedelic rock, Pollution I and Pollution II. The band included singer Tata Vega and guitarist/singer James Quill Smith. He also worked at A&M Records on demo recordings with songwriter Paul Williams.