Roy Ayers (born September 10, 1940) is an American funk, soul, and jazz composer and vibraphone player. Ayers began his career as a post-bop jazz artist, releasing several albums with Atlantic Records, before his tenure at Polydor Records beginning in the 1970s, during which he helped pioneer jazz-funk. He is a key figure in the acid jazz movement, which is a mixture of jazz into hip-hop and funk, and has been dubbed by many as “The Godfather of Neo Soul”. He is most well known for his signature compositions “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” and “Searchin”, and is also famous for having more sampled hits by rappers than any other artist.
Ayers was born in Los Angeles, and grew up in a musical family, where his father played trombone and his mother played piano. At the age of five, he was given his first pair of vibraphone mallets by Lionel Hampton. The area of Los Angeles that Ayers grew up in, South Park (later known as South Central) was the epicenter of the Southern California Black music scene. The schools he attended (Wadsworth Elementary, Nevins Middle School, and Thomas Jefferson High School) were all close to the famed Central Avenue, Los Angeles’ equivalent of Harlem‘s Lenox Avenue and Chicago’s State Street. Roy would likely have been exposed to music as it not only emanated from the many nightclubs and bars in the area, but also poured out of many of the homes where the musicians who kept the scene alive lived in and around Central. During high school, Ayers sang in the church choir and fronted a band named The Latin Lyrics, in which he played steel guitar and piano. His high school, Thomas Jefferson High School, produced some of the most talented new musicians, such as Dexter Gordon.