Larry Graham interviewed by:
“Dr G” Darden and DJ Mike Hall
Source: Soul-Patrol. com
June 22, 2010
G The best known up and coming rapper known as Drake says you are his uncle. Are you Drake’s uncle?
L I have not met him yet to verify this. I have read it but I don’t know. My daughter responded to his MySpace so we have reached out to him but they have not yet responded. We could be related but I don’t know yet.
G The first time I saw GCS was at a small club in Atlanta in 1973. I was a poor Morehouse student and you walked me into the club with your arm around me. I had no money but you and Hershall Happiness made sure I saw the show. This was your first show in Atlanta as GCS. How are Hershall and Chocolate doing and how is her funk box?
L Chocolate is living in LA. She toured with us a little while back and she is on the “Live in London” video soon to be available for you to see. Hershall is also on that video. I heard from him in the last 2 weeks. David Dynamite is no longer with us and Willie Wild came to a show recently. I talked to Butch a couple weeks ago.
M The group we saw at The Birchmere the other night was very tight. When I imagine Larry Graham today, I envision a musician living his dream. You work at your own pace, enjoying family & friends, enjoying the benefits of your successes. You are not a slave to the music. You seem to be on top of things. How do you achieve that and what would you say to the young musicians about how to achieve that?
L Put spiritual things first and like Jesus said, you can’t serve two masters. If spirituality is first and you love the music it’s much more enjoyable and you are not so concerned about material things. You don’t want to be a slave to the music and strive after those things like King Soloman did in the Bible. They don’t know who their real friend is. We put spiritual things first and music is always a joy. I don’t have a bunch of bills so it becomes a joy and I can work when I want to.
G You want to speak on your spirituality and how it affects Brother Nelson (Prince) and your beautiful wife Tina.
L I had heard about Tina braiding hair. On the first GCS album cover you see everybody’s hair braided except David Dynamite. She breaded everybody’s hair.
G People ask you everywhere?
L It took her 8 hours to braid my hair. The whole time we talked about the Bible and God. Then Tina’s mom was baptized as a Jehovah Witness in 1974. Tina attended and contacted me and we both started studying. I was baptized a year later. I met Prince 12 years ago. GCS played the amphi-theater in Nashville while Prince was at the arena. He asked me to jam with him at a small club in Nashville. I didn’t know he was raised on my music from Sly to GCS. He had tons of questions about the Bible and eventually asked me to move to Minnesota to teach him the Bible. We were going to move from Jamaica anyway, so we moved to Minnesota to help Prince study the Bible.
M I just want to say that the tour with you and Prince was the last time I remember you being in the DC area and that conversation on stage between you and Prince was one of the most amazing moments that I have seen on stage. That just lives with me. What’s coming up next?
L I just finished mixing a live album recorded in Paris from an April tour that we just did. They are putting that together in Paris right now and I’m also working on my next CD that should be finished pretty soon. I’m not on a deadline because I’m not locked doewn with a company right now.
G And we can get that at LarryGraham. com right?
G A couple weeks ago I saw The Family Stone at the Capitol Jazz Fest in Columbia, MD where I live. They put on a great show but I would love to see the original group reunite with that deep voice that was missing. And we were wondering what it might be like for Larry Graham (with that deep voice) to get back with these guys and maybe even Sly. Any chance of that happening?
L You know that everything that happens in my life that has been major was never planned. From playing the bass to starting GCS, it was never planned. So I won’t say it will happen but I certainly won’t say that it won’t happen.
G It would be the world’s biggest tour and we know the Beatles can’t get together, but you can, and the world wants to see it.
L Well we can’t rule it out.
M Well on my block, speaking of the Beatles, Sly and The Family Stone was known as the Black Beatles. What always struck me about the San Francisco musicians and groups was the diversity. Not only racially but men and women in the same group and the women were not just background singers they sang their own parts. Today it’s still pretty rare.
L Yeah that was a very unique feature of the group. Yeah I appreciate it too. Remember at the Uruba Sinbad special when Jerry Martini, Cynthia and Rose played with me? That was 4 original Family Stone members and when we went on tour that year with Prince, Gregg Errico often showed up to make it 5 original members on stage. Only Freddie and Sly were missing, which is why I say you can’t rule it out. That was already about as close as you can get and at 1 show Freddie almost came up I think and they would have made 6. Everybody except Sly.
G And at the Grammys (a couple years ago) everyone was on stage and I think you were in the audience?
L I was there earlier and when the show was actually being filmed I was not there.
M I wanted to ask you a little bit more about that San Francisco scene. Do you consider yourself as part of that scene? You played with Betty Davis and then the dressing on that first album with the 40’s look with Zoot suits sort of reminded me of the Pointer Sisters who were coming out around that same time. To me I’m sensing a scene where everybody was into the retro dressing and I was just wondering did you all really hang out and work together or was it just a management thing? Groups like the Pointer Sisters, Cold Blood, Betty Davis and Tower of Powere even?
L Tower of Power were on a lot of my early albums and yes I was around Betty Davis a lot but not so much Cold Blood or the Pointers although my drummer Gaylord Birch did play with the Pointer Sisters but he didn’t bring any style of dress or anything. No, the only ones we really hung with were TOP and Betty Davis.
G Now in the DC area there is a movement called go-go music. Now I don’t know how much you know about go-go or Mr Chuck Brown?
L Oh yeah, yeah a friend of mine was trying to get Chuck to come to the show but he wasn’t available.
G You ever jam with Chuck or play any go-go? Of course they also borrow your bass lines.
L I would love to meet him some day.
G You know they consider you the Jimi Hendrix of the bass. And we saw that the other night when you did “People” and went into the bass line of one of my favorite songs “Sex Machine” and that whole Hendrix on bass thing that really you started and only you could even think about doing anything like that. Can you speak on that? Did you ever play with Jimi Hendrix or the late Garry Shider of Funkadelic who just died?
L When he was with Parliament we did shows together at Radio City Music Hall when George was coming out of the coffin and other gigs but as far as the Parliament are concerned we go all the way back to Sly and the Family Stone when Parliament were still wearing suits.
G You ever jam with Jimi?
L Never jammed with, but I did see him at a club one time at a place called Steve Pauls’Scene on 46th Street in NY. Sitting a couple tables down from me. He joined a band that was on stage and turned the club out.
M I’d like to know about some of your influences. You’ve been on the scene really for so long. I’d like to think back to what you listened to as a kid and what influenced you?
L Well my biggest musicial influence was my Mother who played piano and sang and my Dad played guitar and sang. My grandmother, who raised me while my Mother traveled all over the world, saw to it that I got dance lessons and piano lessons and I played in the marching band which you can tell by (my song) “Intro”. Then I wanted to play sax but they made me play clarinet first and I started playing guitar at 11 when my Dad decided he wasn’t going to play anymore. I taught myself to play at 11 and cut my first record at 15. I lisened to Chuck Berry but my favorite guitar player was Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. I taught myself to play his record “The Okie Dokie Stomp”. Then Ike and Tina came to Filmore West and they invited me on stage to play “The Okie Dokie Stomp”. We turned it out and this was my first big stage experience and I was like “yeah I like this”. I was 13 then and later on in the early 70s GCS opened up for Ike and Tina. So I played for them as a teen and again in my 20s.
G How did you come up with that thumping and plucking sound that everyone in the world from Stanley Clarke to Bootsy Collins has copied? Those guys love you and consider you the originator.
L Well my Mother and I started working together (she played piano) when I was 16 along with a drummer who also sang. I was playing guitar. So we had the Dell Graham Trio. This one club we worked in had a organ with bass pedals. I learned how to play the guitar and the bass pedals (with my feet) at the same time. It had much bottom and sounded full. I got used to that sound then the organ broke down and it sounded empty now. So I rented a St George bass to play while the organ was being repaired. The organ could not be repaired so I got stuck on the bass and Mom decided we were going duo without drums with just piana and bass. So to make up without having that bass drum I would thump the thing and to make up without having the snare I would pluck it. So this is how I came up with thumping and plucking out of necessity since I no longer had the drums. It was like playing drums with the bass. And because I wasn’t listening to other bass players, I wasn’t influenced by the way they played with the so-called correct overhand style. If I had planned to be a bass player I would have played like that because my bass player played like that when I played guitar. So at this club where we played 2 doors down from Haight and Asbury there was this lady who liked the way I played the bass so she kept calling Sly Stone who had a radio show in San Francisco. I heard this many years later but she was a big fan of Sly and had heard he was starting a band and she wanted Sly to hear this very different bass player. She kept telling Sly “you gotta hear this bass player”. So because of her persistence, I didn’t know her, he came down and heard this weird way I played the bass and asked me to play in the band. That’s how it became popular with songs like “Dance to the Music” and “Thank You”. By this time I am no longer stuck on the bass, I am loving it.
M Interesting, at the show (in DC) a guy said to me that it was your Mother calling Sly constantly. Glad to get this story straight.
L No she was just this lady, she didn’t even know Sly. We found out later that she was a regular at the club so we went to thank her and she had moved. We don’t know if she even knows that I went on to become a member of the band. My Mother had nothing to do with it.
M What was the name of the band? What was your Mom’s claim to fame?
L The Dell Graham Trio. Google it.
M Were you on “Come on and Swim” by Bobby Freeman (produced by Sly)?
L No, but I did a concert with him when that record was out. We were on the same bill in San Francisco.
G Who are some of your favorite guitarists today?
L Prince! That sort of covers everything.
M Do you listen to any new music and who would that be?
L I try to listen to a little bit of everything. I’m kind of old school. Give me a little Chaka Chan, a little Stevie Wonder. A lot of the new stuff is based on old school anyway. My daughter Latia listens to everything and I hear it from her.
G Do you have other kids?
L I have a son in California . He is also a songwriter and producer. He produced the group Wild Orchid. The girl from Black Eyed Peas was in the group Wild Orchid. He also produced the early boy group EYC who all the boy groups tried to sound like.
M You are an artist whose music is so self-contained and we don’t hear a lot of Larry Graham samples. Is that because you don’t allow it or because people don’t ask so much.
L I have been asked a lot on stuff that I have approved but often unless you really have an ear or you are in tune to all parts of my music you might now hear that it’s “The Jam” or “Pow” or something. They build around the record and sometimes you can’t tell. That’s cool but I’m not the most sampled out there like James Brown.
G Speaking of James Brown, he’s a personal favorite of Mike and I also, did you ever get a chance to jam with James?
L Not with him but we were on the same show. We played on the same show. I remember seeing James when I was a teenager in Oakland and we opened for him in Ohio with GCS.
M You’re living now in Minneapolis?
L I am living 25 miles west of Minneapolis. One magazine rated my town as the #2 city to live in in the country.
M Must have been a shock going from southern California to Jamaica to Minneapolis. I went to St Paul in 1973 and I have never been cold since.
L It’s not something you get used to but you have to know how to deal with it. Spring, summer and fall is just beautiful. Even the snow in winter is still beautiful because it’s not that nasty snow you might get in other big cities. Pretty snow and they keep the roads clean. But the below 0 stuff is just ugly. The 20 and 30 below. It was sort of a shocker to move from Montego Bay to Minneapolis in December but we immediately found the Mall of America and some warm clothes and we bought a Suburban and we straight! Tina and I know how to deal with it now. You have to break it up. Go somewhere warm for a couple weeks and then come back home.
M I’ve been married for 26 years myself and it’s really a blessing and when you said she (Tina) was braiding your hair back in 1972 and you guys have been together all but 2 days since then gave me goose bumps. That was as profound of a moment as listening to “Stand”.
L Once was for Eddie Murphy’s party and the other was for The Grammys on the east coast when my manager insisted that he needed to go and we only had 2 tickets.And my daughter until she reached 18 was with me everyday of her life except 1 day. Whenever you saw me, you saw Tina and Latia.
M In my book, that is easily the key to a happy and successful life.
L Oh man, I’m telling you she is my best friend we talk all the time and we do everything together and we study the Bible together.
G We would like to thank you for the music. This interview is for soul-patrol. com and we will make sure you get a copy of this interview on the internet. And as fans we would like to say thank you.
L You are more than welcome. I will be looking forward to that and I will put it up on the site so that everybody will get a chance to check it out.
M At your next Graham family reunion “G” and I would love to come where ever you are and DJ for you.
L That’s kind of you. I have always wanted to go to one but it’s always in the summer and I’m always about to do something or I’m busy doing something else. But one of these days I want to catch one and I will keep you in mind for sure.
G And maybe Drake will be there.
L You know what, if he makes contact with me and it turns out we are blood we can probably plan to deliberately make plans to be there together.
M That must discount what we heard as a rumor that he was your brother’s son?
L Well, I only have a half brother Eric and he is no longer alive, but we were not always around each other and we were not raised together. Eric and his wife and me and my wife used to study the Bible together but I don’t know that they had a son named Drake.
G Drake’s mom is Canadian, was Eric’s wife Canadian or could he have had a son with a Canadian woman?
L We can’t rule it out. Drake and I will have to get together to discuss.
G Well, like Swamp Dog said, “Mama’s baby, Daddy’s maybe”!
Artichokes!!!!![Vous devez être inscrit et connecté pour voir cette image]