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Larry Graham, Jr. (born August 14, 1946 in Beaumont, Texas) 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 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'."
Graham, who is African American, played bass in the highly successful and influential funk band Sly & the Family Stone from 1967 to 1972. 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's band lacked a drummer; 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. 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 Les Claypool, Bootsy Collins, Louis Johnson, Mark King, Flea, Peter Hook, Jeff Berlin, Victor Wooten, Geddy Lee, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, John Norwood Fisher, P-Nut, Danny McCormack, Matt Noveskey, Dirk Lance, Pino Palladino and Kenny Franklin (of San Mateo).
Upon the Family Stone's disintegration due to lead singer Sly Stone's drug addiction, Graham formed his own band, Graham Central Station. The name is a pun on Grand Central Station, the train station located in the Manhattan borough of 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 legend 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. In the early 1980s, Graham recorded five solo albums and had several solo hits on the R&B charts. His biggest hit was "One in a Million You", a crossover hit, which reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1980.
He reformed Graham Central Station in the early 1990s and performed with the band for several years during which they released 2 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 in 1997-2000. He appeared in Prince's 1998 VHS Beautiful Strange and 1999 DVD Rave Un2 the Year 2000.
In 2007 he was invited to play in Minneapolis with the reformed Sly & the Family Stone, but declined because he was out of town. He did however appear onstage in Minneapolis on July 8, 2007 with Prince at First Avenue. On October 24, 2009, he appeared with Prince in Minneapolis once more, during a concert at Prince's Paisley Park Studios complex.
Graham is the uncle of Canadian rapper and actor Aubrey Graham (Drake).
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