Michael Gwynne's father, Frankie Kaye, was a big band leader for most of his life, but when the popularity of the genre faded in the 1950s, he became a driving instructor and salesman. Understandably embittered, he was against his son entering the music industry, but young Gwynne was hypnotized by top 40 rock radio. By age 18 he was on the air as a DJ in Canada, where he worked for four years before returning to the United States, logging time in Mississippi, Alabama, California and New York, where he also took acting lessons from famed drama coach Stella Adler. His rise to DJ fame was accelerated in 1965 when, as part of a radio promotional stunt, Gwynne drummed for 92 hours straight, setting a new world record. While on vacation in Hollywood in 1969, Gwynne met Jerrold Freedman, then a producer at Universal Studios. After discussing their shared love of jazz, Gwynne mentioned his desire to act. Three weeks later, Freedman brought him to the Universal lot, where Gwynne received his first television part. A regular guest star for the next two decades, Gwynne's acting appearances became less frequent in the 1990s, as he instead concentrated on writing screenplays when not sitting in on drums with jazz bands all over New York.