Larry Graham, Jr. is an American baritone singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known as both the bass guitar player in the popular and influential psychedelic soul/funk band Sly & the Family Stone, and as the founder and front man of Graham Central Station. He is credited with the invention of the slapping technique, which radically expanded the tonal palette of the bass, although he himself refers to the technique as “Thumpin’ and Pluckin’.”
THE EARLY DAYS
Larry Graham Jr. was born on August 14, 1946 in Beaumont, Texas but he was raised in Oakland, California. At the age of 5 he began preparing for his life course as a performer by learning to tap dance and shortly thereafter began to take piano lessons. In Junior high he joined the school band playing drums which he continued to do all the way through high school. However at the age of 11 his father gave him his own personal guitar since his father decided he wasn’t going to perform anymore. Larry then taught himself to play and that same year he began his professional music career playing in his first band. At 13 he recorded his first record. By his teens he was playing a number of instruments including the drums, piano, guitar, bass and harmonica. At 15 he joined his mother’s band – “The Dell Graham Trio”. His mother played piano, with him on guitar and Ruben Kerr on drums (a member of his first band).
At age 15, one of the nightclubs where they performed regularly had a house organ available that had bass pedals on it. Larry taught himself to play the bass pedals while playing the guitar & singing, all at the same time. One night the organ broke down leaving the band without the bass sound they had become used to. So Larry rented a St. George bass from Music Unlimited in San Leandro CA. until the organ could be repaired.
Larry’s mother decided to change their trio into a duo, just bass and piano. So Larry compensated for not having a bass drum by “thumping” the strings and made up for not having a snare drum by “plucking” them. He wasn’t concerned with playing the so called “correct” over hand style method of playing the bass since this was only temporary until the organ could be repaired. As it turned out, it was beyond repair… and the rest is history!
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE DAYS
In 1968 Larry joined Sly and the Family Stone. Their first album “A Whole New Thing” provided a way for people all over the country to hear Larry’s unique bass playing. Their next album had a number of hit singles such as “Dance to the Music” and “Everybody Is a Star,” both of which allowed his voice as well as his thumping & plucking bass style to be heard around the globe. In 1993 Larry was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Sly and the Family Stone.
GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION DAYS
In the early 70s, Larry left Sly and the Family Stone and started to produce a band named Hot Chocolate, which he eventually joined and renamed it Graham Central Station. The group included guitarist David “Dynamite” Vega on guitar, Robert “Butch” Sam on organ, Hershall “Happiness” Kennedy on keyboard, Patrice “Chocolate” Banks vocalist/ percussionist, and Willie “Wild” Sparks on drums. The first album released in early 1974 was named “Graham Central Station” and it included the hit “Can You Handle It.” Later in 1974 the next album “Release Yourself” yielded the hit “Feel the Need”.. That same year GCS was nominated for a Grammy for the “Best New Artist of 1974”. Then in 1975 the third album “Ain’t No Bout-A-Doubt It”, which went Gold and gave us the single “Your Love,” landed in the Top 40 and topped the R&B charts. That album also gave us “The Jam”. In 1976 GCS released the album “Mirror” which included the hit “Love Covers a Multitude of Sin”.
The title track of the 1977 album “Now Do U Wanta Dance” soared on the R&B charts. The final two albums that GCS released were “My Radio Sure Sounds Good to Me” which title track by the same name featured Tina Graham on lead vocal. In 1978 the band released “Star Walk”.
In the 1990’s, GCS featured Larry’s former Sly and the Family Stone band members Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini. They regularly performed with Prince in a number of concerts as well as in Prince’s Jam of the Year tour. GCS released a Japanese album “By Popular Demand”. Their last album to date “GCS 2000” was released in 1999.
THE SOLO DAYS
In 1979 Larry launched his solo career and then became known for his soulful ballads. In 1980 he released the album “One in a Million You” and its title track became not only a Top Ten hit, but one of the most beloved romantic ballads. Larry was also nominated for another Grammy for the “Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male”. The album “Just Be My Lady” was another hit for Larry from his 1981 album of the same name. Then 1982 saw the release of “Sooner or Later” which also enjoyed great popularity. In 1983 Larry released his album “Victory “and in 1985 he released an album in Japan “Fired Up”. In 1987 Larry recorded a duet with Aretha Franklin named “If You Need My Love Tonight”. A few years later Larry teamed up with his friend comedian/singer Eddie Murphy to lead Eddies band Psychedelic Psoul which toured the U.S. and Europe.
Larry is continuously writing (which he will always do) and he along with the rest of Sly and the Family Stone received the Rhythm & Blues “Pioneer Award” in 2001. He has also been very involved in his volunteer work as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses which he has done since 1975. Larry has also performed at international venues both as a solo performer as well as with Graham Central Station and Prince and enjoyed a very successful world tour in 2010. Once again Larry and GCS are again sharing the joy of funk with their 2011 “Funk Around The World” Tour. Larry is currently working on his newest CD that is due out soon.