Dobie Gray – Drift Away

That guitar intro and tone hooked me into this song. Gray said in an interview that the song’s hook of “Gimme the beat boys and free my soul” has been misheard and incorrectly sung as “Gimme the Beach Boys,” “Gimme the wheat boys” (proposed for a cereal commercial), “Gimme the peat moss,” and “Gimme the meatballs.”

The song was recorded at Quad Studio in Nashville. Drift Away was written by producer/songwriter Mentor Williams in 1973. Mentor is the brother of Paul Williams.

The Rolling Stones recorded a version of Drift Away for their “It’s Only Rock and Roll” album in November of 1973 but it didn’t make the album and has never been released except on bootlegs.

Drift Away peaked at #5 in the Billboard 100 in 1973.

From Songfacts

This was originally sung by John Henry Kurtz, an actor whose 1972 Reunion album also featured Kenny Loggins and a cover of Loggins’ “Danny’s Song.” 

Virtuoso guitarist and session man Reggie Young Jr. played on this track, which is known for its distinctive intro. His son, Reggie Young III, told us that his father had to re-learn the signature guitar lines for a live radio broadcast around 1993, when Lonnie Mack did a special out of Nashville and invited several people to perform as guests. Said Young, “Dobie Gray asked my father to join him in playing ‘Drift Away’ live. This was the first time since 1973 that they had played the song together. In the ’80s my father was showing another guitar player how to play the intro to ‘Drift Away,’ but the other guy said he thought that my father was playing it wrong. In fact he was playing in the wrong key. Also, when this was re-recorded in 1997 for Gray’s CD Diamond Cuts, he declined, as he didn’t think he could do it any better than he did on the original.”

In 2002, Gray recorded this as a duet with Uncle Kracker. When this track reached the Billboard top 10 in 2003, 30 years later, Gray broke the record for the biggest gap between top US top 10 appearances.

His record of 30 years, two months and one week was broken in 2018 by Andy Williams. The late crooner had a gap of 47 years, eight months and three months between his two visits to the upper reaches of the chart with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in 2018 and “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story” in 1971.

This song was not only a commercial breakthrough for Mentor Williams but also a breakthrough as a recording project. He explained to American Songwriter MagazineMarch/April 1988: “I think one of the hardest things for me to learn about songwriting was to really expose my feelings and weaknesses and to write personal, emotional things. As soon as I started doing that, I realized other people were relating to my songs. You can study how to write and spend a lot of time writing, but without this emotional content in a song, it’s just not there. ‘Drift Away’ was a big breakthrough for me. It was a song where it suddenly was okay for me to write about being hurt and let people know that I had been hurt and I wasn’t afraid to expose my feelings.”

The updated version with Uncle Kracker holds the record for the longest run atop the Adult Contemporary chart, having reigned for 28 weeks in 2003-04.

This has been featured in several movies, including the 1988 comedy Heartbreak Hotel (starring David Keith as Elvis Presley), the 2003 drama Wonderland (starring Val Kilmer), and 2006 sports biopic Invincible (starring Mark Wahlberg). It was also used on The Office (US), in the 2007 episode “Product Recall.”

Drift Away

Day after day I’m more confused
So I look for the light in the pouring rain
You know that’s a game that I hate to lose
I’m feelin’ the strain, ain’t it a shame

Oh, give me the beat boys, and free my soul
I want to get lost in your rock and roll and drift away

Beginning to think that I’m wastin’ time
I don’t understand the things I do
The world outside looks so unkind
I’m countin’ on you to carry me through

And when my mind is free
You know a melody can move me
And when I’m feelin’ blue
The guitar’s comin’ through to soothe me
Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me
I want you to know I believe in your song
Rhythm and rhyme and harmony
You help me along makin’ me strong

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

43 thoughts on “Dobie Gray – Drift Away”

  1. I am one of the ones who as a kid thought he was singing “give me the beach boys”- a great and perfect song. A song I could listen to endlessly- a great summer song.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. off topic have you checked out that Beatles course yet? I have completed week 1 and 2- it’s ok but I can’t say I learned anything at all… which I guess in a way can be a good thing- meaning I must know a little about those boys.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes I enrolled Sunday… I’ve only just started though. I am behind but I plan to hit it this weekend.
        Oh one question…do you need the book? He said it would help but it was an option really…at least that is the way I heard it.
        I’m looking forward to it…like you I hope I will learn something else.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. From what I have seen so far you really don’t need anything- that book he mentioned I bought back in the 80’s I think it is long out of print- at least I haven’t seen it in stores for a long long time.. I like hearing him talk about the stuff- I am at the point where they come to the US. A lot of the earlier stuff is covered in Mark’s book. I think this course would be helpful for those who are not really that acquainted with the group.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks that is what I thought…he did say we could use Wiki…
        You know, I didn’t think I could be surprised on Beatle knowledge much anymore until Mark’s book. Bailey is ahead of me in this and he is enjoying it.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Yes I agree with you- looking forward to the next Mark book simply because you know he will be letting us in on stuff we do not know anything about. Glad Bailey is enjoying it. I think it is well done.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yes it is…I can’t imagine having this option in college.
        I’m really hoping by next year we will at least find out a date of the next book.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. OH this is a free one online- the site is called Coursera- and the class is The Music of The Beatles- again its free- I have done the first two weeks of the course. Someone posted it on Sunday–it’s pretty good. I am not sure what all is there on that site- I haven’t explored it much yet..

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Great great song. I’m sure it’s on one of those Rhino Best of the 70s compilations and I should have it! I remembered the 2000s cover, although I don’t think I could’ve recalled it was with Uncle Kracker … would not have guessed it did 28 weeks at #1 on ad contemp charts. It was not bad, but pale comparison of Dobie’s original

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The original has stuck with me… The Stones actually did a good version of it…I’m surprised they haven’t released it but it’s odd they recorded it right when Dobie released his version.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is where a guy (not sure who he is) drives Elvis’ Rolls Royce across the country and has has various musician/actor/etc. people riding along in places and they go to all of the places that were important in Elvis’ life. I really don’t like how quickly he skimmed through so many people. He should have turned it into a series. That said, I’m SURE, as you love Elvis, you would love this movie. I had to get it sent to me by disk as it isn’t in streaming.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Don’t get me wrong…he is no Beatles but I do like him…his early stuff mostly. Sounds good…I love docs.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I know that version also… It’s great….this is one of the first songs I remember hearing…period.
      That is odd it didn’t mention it…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is my favorite version. Uncle Kracker’s annoyed me and, now, after The Stones version…that is, officially, worse than UK’s. Jagger sounded like he was singing with a mouth full of marbles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes you don’t like Jagger so you won’t like his…
      It’s my favorite version also…Dobie’s is what I grew up on.


      1. Well, despite the fact that Jagger can’t actually SING, I do like some Stones stuff. There are a LOT of Stones songs I like. He’s just better suited to ROCK, kinda like Brian Johnson & Bon Scott of AC/DC. They are not suited to do ballads…and Bon Scott was notorious for singing off key, much like Johnny Cash. LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They are singers that are an aquired taste…but the masses did acquire it.
        Mick makes it work though…stuff like Angie, Memory Motel…they wrote them for his voice. I can’t imagine someone singing them better. It’s the wording and phrasing more than singing…there are so many words that you cannot just flat out “sing” them.

        Now could Jagger sing Sinatra? No…geez no but they wrote them to fit his style.


      3. That is an excellent point. Something written FOR Jagger…I do like Angie. Another song that seemed to be tailored for him was Emotional Rescue.

        Heh. Jagger does Sinatra…”And, I did it MYYYYYY WAAAYYY…” 😆

        Liked by 1 person

      4. LOL… Hey I saw Dylan doing Sinatra on his last tour…
        The way Hendrix, Dylan, Petty and all of those get by with it is because they write for themselves. Like Ric Okasek… can you imagine him singing something other than the Cars songs?


      5. There are some singers that, by their very nature, become pigeonholed. You have to have quite a vocal range & flexibility to be able to hop genres.

        Got any links to Dylan doing Sintra? He’s not known for holding notes for long.

        Ric Ocasek has a weird voice with strange pronunciations. I can see him doing Dylan…

        Liked by 1 person

      6. long intro…

        Yes he could do Dylan…I made a part time living singing…scratch that…no…well copying Dylan and Jagger…they are pretty easy to copy…but they are the original.

        It’s interesting when a performer jumps the fence and sings something different.


  4. Dobie Gray does the definitive version, imo. I enjoyed hearing Mick and the Stones sing it though. The previous commenters have said it first and better, but this is such a great song.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Perfect! No one has ever come close to this. All the remakes I have heard are just like bad karaoke to me. I heard a young kid at a school dance talking about the Uncle Cracker version – he was stunned to know it was a remake. I played the Dobie version at the dance! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea man this is the go to version for me. This is the one that got me through the seventies with.


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