In the three acts of his career, Larry Graham established himself as an iconic musician, an incredible bandleader, and a smooth soul crooner able to melt the hearts of lovers. And those many talents kept him in the musical spotlight for more than a half century and won for him a legion of loyal fans around the world.
Larry Graham Jr. was born on August 14, 1946 in Beaumont, Texas, and was raised in Oakland, California. As a child he was drawn to music as a pianist as well as a dancer. However, by the time he was a teen he was playing every instrument he could get his hands on, and was recording, too. When he taught himself to play the bass guitar at age 15, he began a process that would change the musical world.
At age 22, he joined the upstart band, Sly and the Family Stone. And it was there that he truly developed his unique style of bass playing – one which would be mimicked by artists for decades to come. Coming out of their transcendent performance at Woodstock in 1969, Sly & the Family Stone lit up the charts through the mid 1970s with such iconic hits as “Everyday People,” “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again),” “Dance To the Music,” “Stand!,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” and “Hot Fun In the Summertime.” Their albums were events – all wheat, no chaff. And a highlight of the funky band sound was Graham’s bass playing.
Ultimately, the highs and lows of it all took their toll and the group disbanded in 1975, going their separate ways. But Graham didn’t miss a beat, forming the funk band 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. Over the next half decade GCS issued a number of hit albums and charted, mostly on the R&B lists, with such numbers as “Can You Handle It,” “Your Love,” and “Feel The Need.”
Then in 1979, Graham went solo, and began his third act crooning a number of romantic ballads that redefined his image for a new generation of listeners. “One In A Million You” became a out-of-the-box smash and the definitive wedding song of 1980. He followed the next year with the similarly toned “Just Be My Lady.” He continued to release solo albums with success over the rest of the 1980s.
In the early 2000s, Graham began performing and recording with Prince. It sparked his desire to recreate Graham Central Station, and a continued performing career around the world. In 2019, his long “lost” album, Chillin, was released by Soul Music Records and producer Preston Glass, reminding the world again of the great work that this iconic musician and singer performed over the years.
By Chris Rizik