He is a trumpeter born in Los Angeles, California, whose mother was a hairdresser to Pearl Bailey and father was a bass player for Louis Jordan and Lena Horne. He started learning the piano, bongos and clarinet when he was five years old and when his eleventh birthday came the saxophonist Benny Carter gave him his first trumpet.
When he was 15 he joined he became a member of a youth band and with them he received instruction on composition, arrangement and preparation. He took further studies at the L.A. Valley College and concentrated on Music Education at California State University that saw him earning his B.A in the subject.
In 1969/1970 he attended an audition with Maurice White and found himself taken on as an original member of Earth, Wind & Fire and stayed with them until they were temporarily dissolved in 1972. Forming his own band with Melba Liston, he would then go on to perform with bandleaders such as Gerald Wilson and Cab Calloway, with groups and artists such as The Gap Band , Lesley Gore, Raymond Jones, Jimmy Smith and Junior Walker, conduct for Nancy Wilson, become Sylvester and Marvin Gaye’s music director from 1974 to 1976 and perform in the orchestra for the musical Hair.
When the 1980s came around he still led his own band, the Leslie Drayton Orchestra which he formed in 1977 and started his own record label, Esoteric, with which he released his first solo recording Our Music Is Your Music. He continued to work with his band which down-sized into Lesley Drayton and Fun in 1984 and added the singer Barbara Morrison to the line-up but in 1988 was so dejected when his Midnight Rendezvous was not taken on by Island that he bought some equipment and left for Colorado to hone his skills in music. He took studies at the University of Denver and earned a musical composition Masters degree and was struck down by cancer, which he successfully beat after surgery in 1994.
He opened the publishing company Water Sign Music Productions in Denver and returned to Los Angeles in 1996 where he continues to work and record and he appeared in the salsa band in the movie Along Came Polly in 2004.
During his career he has released 12 recordings as a bandleader up until 2017, which include By Request, Innuendos, Urbanesque and Close Pursuit and albums with other artists such as Earth, Wind & Fire and Eternal Dance by Earth Wind & Fire, Here My Dear and Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye, The Gap Band, Too Hot to Sleep, Living Proof and Original Hits by Sylvester, Dot Com Blues by Jimmy Smith, Nothin’ But Soul by Junior Walker & The All Stars, All the Way Strong and Reggae Ambassadors: 20th Anniversary Collection by Third World and the soundtrack of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
As a teacher he has taken classes at the Santa Monica College and been a mentor to students who attend sponsored jazz programs. In 2010 he took on a 6-year tenure at Ventura College as Associate Professor of Music.
In 2016 he relocated to Houston, Texas where he continued to work in music and on his new band Few Regrets.
Here is the Leslie Drayton Orchestra with Barbara Morrison performing “When You Will Be Mine”…
The Gap Band recordings
Baby Baba Boogie (Lonnie Simmons/Charlie Wilson )