This bass guitar player is a revolutionary person in the guitar (bass) world. There is really no other way to explain Larry Graham’s place in the evolution of bass guitar. Simply put, there’s bass before Larry Graham, and there’s bass after Larry Graham.
Larry Graham Jr. was born on August 14, 1946 in Beaumont, Texas, USA. He is an American bass guitar player, both with the popular and influential psychedelic soul/funk band Sly and the Family Stone, and as the founder and frontman 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’.”
Owing to some internal feud, Graham left the group in late 1972; after initially agreeing to produce a band named Hot Chocolate (not the same act famed for hit singles like “Emma” and “You Sexy Thing”), he eventually joined their line-up, renaming the unit Graham Central Station. A propulsive, infectious funk ensemble, their original roster also included guitarist David “Dynamite” Vega, keyboardists Robert “Butch” Sam (formerly with Billy Preston), and Hershall “Happiness” Kennedy, percussionist Patryce “Chocolate” Banks, and drummer Willie “Wild” Sparks. The debut Graham Central album, an eponymously titled effort released in 1974, proved highly successful, launching a minor pop hit with “Can You Handle It.” Another hit, “Feel the Need,” emerged from Release Yourself, issued later that same year; the third GCS LP, 1975’s Ain’t No Bout-A-Doubt It, yielded the single “Your Love,” a Top 40 pop hit which also topped the R&B charts. Mirror followed a year later.
By the early ’90s, Graham was leading Psychedelic Psoul, a nine-piece band which toured with comedian/singer Eddie Murphy. He also toured with the Crusaders. Following Sly & the Family Stone’s 1993 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he re-formed Graham Central Station, eventually bringing into the fold former Family Stone bandmates Cynthia Robinson on trumpet and Jerry Martini on saxophone.
One of his most vocal supporters was the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, who readily acknowledged the influence of GCS not only on his music but also on his flamboyant stage show; by 1997, Graham Central Station was the regular supporting act on Prince’s extended Jam of the Year tour, with the group also issuing a Japanese album titled By Popular Demand.
While he wrote and toured on and off for several years, he didn’t release another album with Graham Central Station until 2012, when Raise Up arrived on the Moosicus label.
Larry is continuously writing 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.
With a single St. George model electric bass that young Larry rented from a local music store, he not only found a way to replace the bottom end lost with the broken organ, but ingeniously compensated for the missing drummer by emulating a kick drum sound with his thumb “thumping” the bass guitar’s low string, while copping the snap of the snare with his second finger “plucking” the higher strings.
For the past 27 years Larry has been using the same Moon Bass as it allows him to improvise in his own ways thus making it more flexible and easier for him to work with it. He also used the GHS Boomers flexibility, and feel the snap of those particular strings. According to an interview with the Bass Guitar magazine, mostly the DI clip, the forward angled pickup and the original wireless setup are incorporated into designing the Moon Bass that Larry invariably prefers. As per the BassPlayer magazine, it was a Japanese Moon bass that Larry designed back in 82, inspired by the Jazz bass he used with Graham Central Station. Larry’s custom Moon Basses are fitted with Bartolini pickups and an Audix podium microphone, which plugs into an XLR microphone jack on the back of the bass (see photograph above). He still uses his 1976 Roland (not Boss Jet Phase), a Mu-Tron Octave Divider, a Digitech Whammy and even more fuzz.
According to an interview with Notreble he uses Warwick amps when he was over in Europe for a live tour with his Moon bass, which he designed about 29 years ago. He also uses the same amp for recording apart for some shows where Warwick have their own set of amps.
Larry Graham is pioneer and godfather of the slapping technique and a great exponent of funk music. He has been a great influence for millions of guitarists worldwide. He is unique in the sense that unlike many renowned guitarists who are heavily dependent on wide range of equipments, he uses a minimalistic approach as far as his bass rigs are concerned and produces those amazing sound out of sheer talent and creativity. This is a great lesson for many of you aspiring bass guitarists from a legend like Larry Graham.