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.
He was born near Houston, Texas, by his own account in Simonton although some sources suggest the nearby town of Brookshire. His birth name was most likely Lawrence Darrow Brown, who is listed in Fort Bend County birth records as being born in 1940 to Jane P. Spencel and Jethro Clifton Brown. Other sources suggest he may have been born Leonard Victor Ainsworth, a name he used on some early recordings.
His family sharecropped. He discovered gospel music through his grandfather, a Baptist minister. 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.