A top drummer during the swing era Ray McKinley was most significant in the 1940s in several settings. He played at the start of his career in territory bands, with Smith Ballew and then the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. He stayed with Jimmy Dorsey after the battling Dorseys went their separate ways. In 1939 McKinley became the co-leader of the new Will Bradley Orchestra. His vocals and the piano playing of Freddie Slack made the band a hit with numbers such as "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" and "Celery Stalks at Midnight."
By 1942 trombonist Bradley had become sick of the repertoire and the group broke up. McKinley led a big band for a short time and then went in the military, playing in Europe with Glenn Miller's Army Air Force Orchestra and a small group also including Peanuts Hucko and Mel Powell. In 1946 (after Glen Millers death) he put together his own orchestra which used arrangements by Eddie Sauter. The band failed to catch on (although recordings shows how strong the band could be). Ray McKinley went on to lead the Glenn Miller ghost band during 1956-66 and freelanced with small groups and headed another Glenn Miller-type orchestra. He died May 7, 1995 in Largo, FL.