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