All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Ray McKinney

Ray McKinney Ray McKinney

The great tenor saxophonist Lester “Pres” Young preferred bassists who, in his words, played plenty of “deep sea divers.” Deep sea divers are low notes, bottom notes, notes with meaty, deep, resonant tones. Pres wanted the bass to anchor the rhythm section, not play on top of it. Ray McKinney’s playing fitted firmly within Pres’ philosophy, for McKinney was a strong section man with a lot of bottom to his sound.

Raymond Patterson McKinney was born in Detroit on March 28, 1931, the fourth of ten children born to Bessie and Clarence McKinney. The entire McKinney family was artistically gifted, and most of the children took music lessons from their mother. Ray started on the Ocarina and soon graduated to the piano. “My mother gave me piano lessons,” he recalls. “But I didn’t like her teaching methods. If I made a mistake, she’d rap me on the knuckles. I’d get off the piano bench after that. ‘Get back on that bench’, she’d say. I’d say, ‘no, I’m not gonna do it.’ And I wouldn’t. I was a hard headed little motherfucker.”

Ray declared his atheism at age eight. This greatly disturbed his mother, a devout Christian, but she was unable to change Ray’s mind. “I always went in my own direction,” he says. “I didn’t care about the punishment. Following the wheel of truth was more important to me than any punishment they could mete out.”

Read more


Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.