Born in Oakland, California in 1908, Alvino Rey (real name Alvin McBurney) started out on banjo before switching to guitar at the age of twelve. Early influences included Eddie Lang and Roy Smeck.
In the late 1920s he joined Phil Spitalny’s Orchestra playing guitar and banjo. After a two-year stint in New York with Spitalny, Alvino left for California where he joined NBC radio in San Francisco. It was around this time that he changed his name.
He became a member of Horace Heidt’s band in 1933, playing both Spanish and steel guitar.
In May of 1935, the band went to Chicago to play the Silver Forest room of the Drake hotel and Alvino opened and closed every show on the electric guitar. At this time, he was the highest paid front-man in any orchestra.
In 1944, he joined the United States Navy and during this period led a service outfit, the Radio Chicago Orchestra. After his discharge in 1945, he formed a new band, which released a hit cover of Slim Gaillard’s song, Cement Mixer. Through the 1950s he lead a number of smaller bands, mostly in Southern California.