The son of a Pentecostal minister, Drake began his career with a group, the Drake Brothers, that he shared with his brothers, one of whom, Jack, went on to play with Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadors for nearly a quarter of a century. Drake's melodic steel guitar playing made him one of Atlanta's top young instrumentalists. He joined with future country music superstars Jerry Reed, Doug Kershaw, Roger Miller, and Joe South in a mid-'50s band. Although this group failed to record, it provided Drake with the impetus to move to Nashville in 1959. Drake's involvement with Elvis Presley, which began in May 1966 when he played on Presley's How Great Thou Art album, lasted for more than a year and included appearances on the soundtracks of Presley's films Double Trouble, Clambake, and Speedway.