Larry Graham

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Larry Graham
Graham in 2011
Graham in 2011
Background information
Birth nameLarry Graham Jr.
Born (1946-08-14) August 14, 1946 (age 76)
Beaumont, Texas, U.S.
GenresFunk, soul, R&B
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer
Instrument(s)Vocals, bass, guitar
Years active1961–present
LabelsEpic, Warner Bros., NPG, Rhino, Sphinx

Larry Graham Jr. (born August 14, 1946)[1] is an American bassist and baritone singer, both with the psychedelic soul/funk band Sly and the Family Stone and as the founder and frontman of Graham Central Station.[2] In 1980, he released the single "One in a Million You", which reached the top ten on the US Billboard Hot 100. He is credited with the invention of the slapping technique on the electric bass guitar, which radically expanded the tonal palette of the bass, although he himself refers to the technique as "thumpin' and pluckin' ".[3] In 1993, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Sly and the Family Stone.[4] He is also the uncle of rapper Drake.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Beaumont, Texas[2] to successful musicians, Graham played bass in the funk band Sly and the Family Stone from 1967 to 1972.[1] It is said that he pioneered the art of slap-pop playing on the electric bass, in part to provide percussive and rhythmic elements in addition to the notes of the bass line when his mother decided to no longer have a drummer in her band, while Graham also admits in a BBC documentary on funk music that he is unsure if it was done on economical grounds;[5] the slap of the thumb being used to emulate a bass drum and the pop of the index or middle finger as a snare drum.[3] This style has become archetypal of modern funk. Slap-pop playing couples a percussive thumb-slapping technique of the lower strings with an aggressive finger-snap of the higher strings, often in rhythmic alternation. The slap and pop technique incorporates a large ratio of muted or "dead" notes to normal notes, which adds to the rhythmic effect.

This "slap" bass style was later used by such artists as Bootsy Collins (P-Funk), Les Claypool (Primus), Bernard Edwards (Chic), Louis Johnson,[6] Mark King, Keni Burke, Victor Wooten, Kim Clarke of Defunkt, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Marcus Miller, and Stanley Clarke.

After Sly and the Family Stone, Graham formed his own band, Graham Central Station.[1] The name is a pun on Grand Central Station, the train station located in Manhattan, New York City. Graham Central Station had several hits in the 1970s, including "Hair".

In the mid-1970s, Larry Graham worked with Betty Davis, the second ex-wife of jazz musician Miles Davis. Betty Davis' band included members of the Tower of Power horns and the Pointer Sisters, and she recorded three albums to critical acclaim but limited commercial success.

In 1975, Graham became one of Jehovah's Witnesses.[7] Eventually, he was credited with introducing Prince to the faith. In the early 1980s, Graham recorded five solo albums and had several solo hits on the R&B chart.[1] His biggest hit was "One in a Million You", a crossover hit, which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1980.[1]

He reformed Graham Central Station in the early 1990s and performed with the band for several years during which they released two live albums. One was recorded in Japan in 1992, and the other, recorded in London in 1996, had only 1000 copies printed and was exclusively sold at concerts.

In 1998, he recorded a solo album under the name Graham Central Station GCS 2000. It was a collaboration between Larry Graham and Prince. While Graham wrote all the songs, except one co-written by Prince, the album was co-arranged and co-produced by Prince, and most of the instruments and vocals were recorded by both Graham and Prince. Graham also played bass on tours with Prince from 1997 to 2000. He appeared in Prince's 1998 VHS Beautiful Strange and 1999 DVD Rave Un2 the Year 2000. He has since appeared with Prince at various international venues.

Graham performing in 2013

Graham and Graham Central Station performed internationally with a world tour in 2010 and the "Funk Around the World" international tour in 2011. He appeared with Andre Beeka as a special guest at Jim James' "Rock N' Soul Dance Party Superjam" at the 2013 Bonnaroo Music Festival.[citation needed]

Graham is the father of singer-songwriter and producer Darric Graham. He is also brothers with Dennis Graham, making Larry Graham the uncle of Canadian rapper and actor Drake.[8]


Solo albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions
1980 One in a Million You 26 2
1981 Just Be My Lady 46 8
1982 Sooner or Later 142 15
1983 Victory 173 52
1985 Fired Up
2019 Chillin'
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


Year Single Album Peak chart positions
US Dance
1980 "One in a Million You" One in a Million You 9 1 37
"When We Get Married" 76 9
1981 "Guess Who" Just Be My Lady 69
"Just Be My Lady" 67 4
1982 "Don't Stop When You're Hot"/
"Sooner or Later"
Sooner or Later 102
17 54
1983 "I Never Forget Your Eyes" Victory 34
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

With Sly and the Family Stone[edit]

With Graham Central Station[edit]




  • Live in Japan (1992)
  • Live in London (1996)


  • The Best of Larry Graham and Graham Central Station, Vol. 1 (Warner Bros., 1996)


Year Single Album Peak chart positions
1974 "Can You Handle It?" Graham Central Station 49
1975 "Your Love" Ain't No 'Bout-A-Doubt It 38
"It's Alright" 92
1976 "The Jam" 63


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 105. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  2. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 539. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  3. ^ a b "Larry Graham: Trunk of the Funk Tree". Bass Player. April 2007. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007.
  4. ^ "Sly and the family Stone | Rock & Roll Hall of Fame". Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  5. ^ "The History of Funk Music - YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on February 26, 2020. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  6. ^ "George Johnson". Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  7. ^ Awake! magazine, February 22, 1989, p. 15.
  8. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: A.J. Miller (June 17, 2011). "Larry Graham Talks about his family ties to Drake with Lenny Green" – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Larry Graham – Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved December 15, 2022.
  10. ^ "Larry Graham – TOP R&B/HIP-HOP ALBUMS". Billboard. Retrieved December 15, 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Larry Graham – Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  12. ^ "Larry Graham – Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard.
  13. ^ "Larry Graham – Dance Club Songs". Billboard.
  14. ^ "Larry Graham – Dance Club Songs". Billboard.
  15. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 233. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  16. ^ Larry Graham & Graham Central Station - By Popular Demand, retrieved April 29, 2023

External links[edit]