Clay McMurray is best known for Spyder Turner's version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," a Top 20 pop hit that peaked at number 12 on February 11, 1967. McMurray is also known for co-writing (with Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer) the classic ballad "If I Were Your Woman." McMurray produced the first hit version for Gladys Knight and the Pips when they were signed to Motown's subsidiary Soul label. The single went to number one R&B on January 23, 1971, and Top Ten pop in February 1971, going gold. An album, If I Were Your Woman, was released April 1971 and included the excellent ballad "I Don't Want to Do Wrong" (Top Ten R&B) and covers of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everybody's a Star" and Joe Cocker's "Feelin' Alright."
Covered by numerous artists, "If I Were Your Woman" was a hit single by Stephanie Mills and was the title track of her 1987 MCA Records album. The LP contained the number one R&B hit "(You're Puttin) a Rush on Me" (October 10, 1987). While a college student and working for an insurance company, McMurray submitted Turner's cover of "Stand By Me" as a demo to MGM Records. Basically, the demo was Turner performing "guesstimating" imitations of Jackie Wilson, David Ruffin, Billy Stewart, Smokey Robinson, and Chuck Jackson singing "Stand By Me." MGM issued the demo as a record, giving Turner a major pop hit. MGM released a 1967 album, Stand By Me, and the follow-up single, "I Can't Make It Anymore," charted number 95 pop that same year. In an effort to become more knowledgeable about the record business, McMurray took a promotions job with Arc-Jay-Kay Distribution in Detroit. Three years later, he was hired by Motown's quality control department, which basically meant that he critically listened to every Motown record before it was released. After two years, McMurray was hired as a producer at Motown. In 1971, McMurray took over production of Gladys Knight and the Pips from Norman Whitfield ("I Heard It Through the Grapevine"). Pam Sawyer submitted a song, "If I Were Your Woman," that she and Gloria Jones had written and given to McMurray for Gladys Knight and the Pips. Whitfield urged McMurray to record the song, saying that it would be a number one hit. Knight initially rejected the song until Motown founder/president Berry Gordy intervened. The song became the group's second number one R&B hit.
McMurray, including the Miracles' "Nowhere to Go," co-written with Gary Fears and Dennis Jackson from their marvelous, first post-Robinson album, Renaissance; Kiki Dee's 1971 Motown debut Great Expectations; the Four Tops; the Spinners; Gladys Knight and the Pips; a co-production on the Temptations' Christmas Card album; Undisputed Truth's Girl You're Alright; and the Supremes. He also produced and wrote songs for folk rocker Paul Parrish's Forest of My Mind album.
McMurray married Karen Pree of the Pree Sisters. The group disbanded and McMurray began working with his wife as a solo artist. Moving to L.A., he accepted a position as the A&R director at Norman Whitfield's Whitfield Records. He mixed the movie soundtrack of the 1976 Universal Pictures release Carwash. The MCA Records album went platinum. The title track, recorded by the band Rose Royce, was a number one R&B hit for two weeks on December 26, 1976, and a number one pop hit on January 29, 1977. Two other hit singles were released: "I Wanna Get Next to You" (Top Ten R&B and pop) and "I'm Going Down" (Top Ten R&B). Turner wrote a hit for the band titled "Do Your Dance" and recorded an album, Music Web (released January 1978), for Whitfield/Warner Bros. Three singles were issued: "Is It Love You're After," "I've Been Waitin'," and "Tomorrow's Only Yesterday."
In May 1977, the McMurrays started their own record production company, Love 'n Comfort Entertainment Corporation, and music publishing companies Claka Music and Farrah Music. In June 1977, MCA released Karen Pree, produced by McMurray. It was a musically varied showcase for Pree's clear, laid-back vocals that included a cover of "Cry Me a River." McMurray also co-produced an album for Rick West on the label. That same year, New Birth covered one of his songs, "Your Love Is in My Veins," on their 1977 RCA LP Reincarnation, produced by McMurray's ex-Motown colleague Frank Wilson. Later, McMurray shared engineering credits on various albums and his earlier works can be found on numerous compilations and reissues.