Born and raised in Detroit Michigan, Gayelynn's father, the legendary Harold McKinney, was a formidable jazz pianist, composer and teacher who mentored many people and played with such greats as, Billy Holiday, Gene Krupa and many others. Her mother Gwendolyn McKinney was a fashion model and renowned singer, singing in such productions as Carman and Porgy and Bess. She was also recorded on Harold McKinney's “Voices and Rhythms of The Creative Profile.” As a vocal instructor she mentored many successful vocalist, including one of Ray Charles's Raylets.
Gayelynn began playing the drums at the age of two. She received much of her musical training in the Detroit Jazz scene but, she also obtained her Bachelor of Music degree from Oakland University. Gayelynn has recorded projects with the group Straight Ahead, (which she is a cofounder of ) Ralph Armstrong, Marcus Belgrave just to name a few and has recently recorded solo projects called “It's About Time” and “McKinFolk The New Beginning”.
Gayelynn McKinney's many awards include; 2014 Kresge Artist Fellows recipient. With the Group Straight Ahead and McKinFolk a Grammy Nomination, Motor City Music Award and Detroit Black Music Award recipient and State of Michigan Women of influence award.
Gayelynn McKinney has had the opportunity to travel extensively and play at many famous jazz festivals including Montreux-Switzerland, Lionel Hampton Jazz Fest, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Essence Festival, Olympics, and the Kennedy Center. She has also performed as a side musician with such notables as, Benny Golson, Diane Shure, Jason Marsalis, Freda Payne, Roy Ayers, Geri Allen, Marcus Belgrave, Chaka Khan, Roy Hargrove, Randy Brecker Rick Margitza Larry Coryell, Ralphe Armstrong, Steve Turre, Kevin Mahogany, James Carter, Tim Ries, (The Rolling Stones Music director) “Speech” of Arrested Development and is the last drummer to tour with Aretha Franklin. While performing with Aretha Franklin, Gayelynn had the distinct honor to play for presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton and the Tribeca Film Fest featuring, a tribute to Clive Davis.