Elvin Ray Jones was a jazz drummer. He was born in Pontiac, Michigan, the youngest child in a family of ten. His father worked for General Motors. Two of Jones' brothers were also jazz musicians: Hank (piano), and Thad (trumpet/flugelhorn).
Elvin began playing professionally in the 1940s, working with the Army Special Services program, Operation Happiness, and in 1949 had a short-lived gig in Detroit's Grand River Street club. Eventually he went on to play with artists such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Wardell Gray. In 1955, after a failed audition for the Benny Goodman band, he found work in New York, joining Charles Mingus's band, and releasing a record called J is for Jazz.