Introduction to Larry Graham
Larry Graham is an American bass player and soul singer who is credited with the slapping technique on the bass guitar (which would then be emulated by other bass players). He played bass with the influential soul/funk group Sly and the Family Stone and after that formed his own band Graham Central Station (“Your Love” was the band’s only Top 40 hit single in 1975). In the 1980s Graham started his solo career which yielded the Top 10 Billboard hit “One In A Million You.” Graham is also known for his association with pop singer Prince, who converted to Jehovah’s Witness through the former’s influence. The two worked together on various projects, including one for Graham’s solo album (with Prince was the co-arranger and co-producer) but under the name of his band, Graham Central Station. He has also toured and played bass for Prince in the latter’s international concerts. Graham and Graham Central Station were heavily engaged in world tours in 2010-2011.
Early life and career
Funk bassist and R&B/soul singer Larry Graham Jr. was born in Beaumont, Texas on August 14, 1946. He was later raised in Oakland, California. Even when he was still young, Graham was already musically proficient — not only did he learn to play the bass, but he also played guitar, harmonica and drums. He grew up in a family immersed in music; in fact, Graham performed for his mother’s lounge act called Dell Graham Trio when he was still in his teens. Graham also supported other musicians such as Jackie Wilson and Jimmy Reed while attending college.
As member of Sly and the Family Stone
In 1968 Graham became a member of Sly & the Family Stone during its halcyon days where the group churned out classic singles such as “Stand!,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Nice Elf Again)”/”Everybody Is a Star,” and “Family Affair” and albums such as Stand! and There’s a Riot Goin’ On.
Graham’s stint in his own band Graham Central Station
In early 1972 Graham left Sly & the Family Stone to form his own group Graham Central Station — a world play on Manhattan, New York’s Grand Central Station — which was formerly named Hot Chocolate (not the same band that brought you “You Sexy Thing”). He initially became the band’s producer and eventually joined the lineup, becoming its leader. Graham Central Station had a few hits including a R&B top 10 hits such as “Can You Handle It?,” “Your Love,” and “Now Do-U-Wanta Dance.” However, crossover pop success remained elusive, and the group eventually broke up.
Graham as a solo artist
As he moved to being a solo artist, Graham turned from playing funk to singing soul and R&B ballads. He signed up with Warner (which was also the label of his own band) and in 1979 released his debut solo LP Star Walk.
“One in a Million You” — Graham’s most successful song, and his other hit singles
But he would later achieve success in his second album One in a Million You (1980) which carried the leadoff single, which was the title track. The ballad “One in a Million You,” which was written by Sam Dees and featured Graham’s huge, gaping baritone, became a top 10 hit on both R&B and pop charts at #1 and #9 respectively. It also became a top 40 on the adult contemporary singles chart. The album, meanwhile, rode high at #2 on the R&B album chart and #26 on the Billboard 200.
His third album Just Be My Lady (1981) was also a decent hit as well, spawning the top 10 R&B hit “Just Be My Lady” (#4 R&B, #67 pop). The album also became a Top 10 R&B album hit at #8 and reached #46 on the pop album chart. His 1982 album Sooner or Later also fared decently enough, with its singles “Don’t Stop When You’re Hot” and “Sooner or Later” figured in the Top 40 on both R&B and dance singles rankings.
Graham’s later career and reuniting with Graham Central Station
However, after his fifth LP Victory(1983), Graham’s career began to decline, and he took up the role of songwriter and sideman. In the early 1990s he reformed Graham Central Station, recruting former Sly bandmates Cynthia Robinson (trumpet) and Jerry Martini (saxophone).
Pop star Prince acknowledged Larry Graham/Graham Central Station as one of his biggest influences. In 1997 Graham Central Station was hired as Prince’s regualar opening act on his Jam of the Year tour. In 1999 Graham recorded a solo album (but still under the name Graham Central Station) titledGCS 2000, which was a collaboration between Graham and Prince.
While Graham has toured and written occasionally, he didn’t release another record with the Graham Central Station until 2012, when they released their latest feature Raise Up.