Gray grew up in Detroit, where he studied clarinet, studied at the Institute of Technology and played in local bands. 1943 to 1945 he was employed as before Charlie Parker with Earl Hines (Pickup 1945), where he first played alto saxophone and clarinet before switching to tenor saxophone. In 1945 he went to Los Angeles, where he delivered himself in the clubs frequent tenor battles with Dexter Gordon ( The Chase became known, recorded for Dial). He played in the band of Billy Eckstine, as they toured the West Coast, and with Benny Carter. In 1947, he played with Charlie Parker when he visited the West Coast, and in 1948 with Benny Goodman in New York when he experimented with a bop -oriented big band in the short term. He also recorded with Tadd Dameron on. In 1949, he takes in a session with Al Haig, Tommy Potter and Roy Haynes on (twisted, Solo Would you like to swing on a star ). 1950 and 1951 he was in the Count Basie Big Band acting (Solo Little Pony) and also played in the septet. 1952 and 1953 he played with Louie Bellson and then as a freelancer with his own groups. In the 1950s, however, developed a drug addiction. He died under mysterious circumstances in 1955 in Las Vegas, where he was for appearances with Benny Carter in Casino Moulin Rouge. Gray came to rehearsals with Carter, but at the opening of the club on 25 May he was missing unexcused. He was found with a broken neck in the desert, apparently thrown from a car. Officially, he died of a drug overdose, but the investigation was not done very carefully so that there is speculation until today.
He is next to Dexter Gordon as one of the best tenor saxophonists of the bop era on the West Coast. With its influenced by Lester Young sound he is now some as a kind of precursor of Stan Getz.
A biography of Richard Carter Grays (Easy Swing) is in preparation.
Earl Hines to Wardell Gray
.. he was a fine musician. Nobody ever ran over him and he made a lot of tenor players look up He was just like Pres in the way he wanted to be playing his horn. He also remembers that he was restrained, not much went out and a lot of reading (he used to read real serious books). He also had strange eating habits, he always led a Tabasco bottle with it, burying his fried eggs with pepper.