Category Archives: Birthdays

Bassist Larry Graham

Bassist Larry Graham

Born ‎August 14, 1946

“I’m gonna add some bottom… so that the dancers just can’t hide!”

Screen grab of Graham from a 2012 concert, Bataclan, Paris

None of us had ever done anything even close to Woodstock. Then, all of a sudden, we had the attention of the world. If you were part of that, it just turned everything around.”

So said bassist Larry Graham in a 2014 interview with George Varga in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Beaumont, Texas

Larry Graham was born August 14, 1946 in Beaumont, Texas.  From an article in The Watchtower: I was born into a musical family…, my mother’s only son. She was a pianist with the church choir, and my father was a jazz guitarist. Soon afterward my family moved to Oakland, California, where I started tap dancing at the age of five. Two years later, I learned the piano under the guidance of my grandmother, who cared for me in those early years.

From the Varga interview:  “My biggest influence was actually my mother’s left hand. Because, before I went to bass, I was playing guitar. And when she would solo, I would play bass lines on my guitar. And when I would solo, she’d play bass lines on piano with her left hand. That’s the way she played anyway, before I started playing with her.  So when I started playing with her, I was influenced by her left-hand bass lines.”

Bassist Larry Graham

Sly

Bassist Larry Graham
Graham is in the back in yellow

His breakout success was with Sly and the Family Stone (1966 – 1972).

Albums with Sly and the Family Stone

  • 1967: A Whole New Thing
  • 1968: Dance to the Music
  • 1968: Life
  • 1969: Stand!
  • 1971: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  • 1973: Fresh
Bassist Larry Graham

Bass Technique

From that same interview: “By slapping the strings and expertly plucking and popping them with his fingers, he transformed the electric bass, making it as prominent as a guitar and dramatically increasing its rhythmic intensity. By dong so, he laid the foundation for several subsequent generations of bassists, including everyone from Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten and San Diego’s Nathan East to Les Claypool of Primus, Level 42’s and Mr. Big’s Billy Sheehan.”

Bassist Larry Graham

Witness

In 1973, he met his future wife Tina. Tina’s mom was a Jehovah Witness and asked Tina to be present at her baptism in the Oakland Coliseum. Graham attended and says he’d never seen anything like the gathering before.

He and Tina began Bible study and visited various Jehovah Witness congregations while on tour. He and Tina were baptized at the district convention in Oakland in July 1975.

Graham would later introduce the religion to Prince. He became a Jehovah’s Witness later in life, and according to Graham, that helped shape Prince’s music as well as his lifestyle.

Graham said that Prince would knock on doors, talk with visitors at his studio-compound Paisley Park in suburban Minneapolis and even share his faith with small groups after a show,

“That brought him joy. That brought him real happiness,” Graham said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Graham Central Station

After Sly [from the QG Enterprise page]: [Graham]…went on to produce a Funk band called “Hot Chocolate”, which he eventually joined and renamed “Graham Central Station”. The original lineup included guitarist David “Dynamite” Vega, organist Robert “Butch” Sam, keyboardist Hershall “Happiness” Kennedy, vocalist/percussionist Patryce “Choc’let” Banks, and drummer Willie “Wild” Sparks. The group used the funk foundation that Graham had established with “Sly and the Family Stone” and sweetened it with various layers of soul, blues and other styles – a magical combination that scored the band a Grammy nomination in 1974 for Best New Artist. Graham Central Station released a string of seven albums throughout the 70’s. Their debut album, a self-titled effort released in 1974, proved highly successful, launching a minor pop hit with “Can You Handle It“. 

He reformed Graham Central Station in the early 1990s and performed with the band for several years. Graham and Graham Central Station performed internationally with a world tour in 2010 and the “Funk Around The World” international tour in 2011.

Graham Central Station albums

  • Graham Central Station (Warner Bros., 1974)
  • Release Yourself (Warner Bros., 1974)
  • Ain’t No ‘Bout-A-Doubt It (Warner Bros., 1975)
  • Mirror (Warner Bros., 1976)
  • Now Do U Wanta Dance (Warner Bros., 1977)
  • My Radio Sure Sounds Good to Me (Warner Bros., 1978)
  • Star Walk (Warner Bros., 1979)
  • Live in Japan (1992)
  • Live in London (1996)
  • Back by Popular Demand (1998)
  • The Best of Larry Graham and Graham Central Station, Vol. 1 (Warner Bros., 1996)
  • Raise Up (2012)
Bassist Larry Graham

Prince

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.

When Prince died in 2016, Minnetonka, Minnesota’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall held a memorial service for him – “Brother Nelson” as his fellow congregants knew him – Sunday at the church where he worshiped.

At the service, Graham spoke about Prince and their shared faith. [RS article]

Bassist Larry Graham

Credits

All Music has a very long list of his credits. Among the names (in addition to Prince, Sly, and Graham Central are:  Betty Davis (the second ex-wife of jazz legend Miles Davis), George Tyson, the Oak Ridge Boys. Aretha Franklin, Stanley Clarke, George Benson, Stanley Jordan, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Mahalia Jackson, Frankie Lanine, Eddie Murphy, Santana, Chaka Khan, Luther Allison, Government Mule, Billy Preston, Shania Twain,  Kanye West, as well as many many others.

Bassist Larry Graham

Solo

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 No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1980.

Solo albums [all Warner Bros. releases]

  • 1980: One in a Million You
  • 1981: Just Be My Lady
  • 1982: Sooner or Later
  • 1983: Victory
  • 1985: Fired Up
Bassist Larry Graham

Hall of Fame

A 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee as a member of Sly & The Family Stone

Bassist Larry Graham

Check out this live concert. Amazing energy!

Bassist Larry Graham
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Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

August 27, 1934 – August 22, 2005

I often entitle my little bios of Woodstock performers by including the word “Woodstock” before or after their name. An SEO strategy.

In the case of Teddy Harris, the word Woodstock, however  much apropos, is far too limiting because his roots and branches are  Detroit.

As he says above, “Nobody swings as hard as Detroit.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit

Theodore Edward Harris Jr. was born in Detroit on August 27, 1934.

His first music teacher was his father, jazz organist Theodore Harris Sr.

A Metrotimes article recounts his early musical milestone: as a precocious 7-year-old, [Harris] had a musical epiphany…at the Paradise Theatre. As recounted in Harris family lore, the curtains opened, the youngster jumped up on his seat, pointed at Duke Ellington on stage and pronounced, “That’s what I want to be.”

Harris himself talked about his home’s musical atmosphere: “I came up in a house full of music. I had uncles that sang; they sang like birds. They had a trio called the Cosmopolitan Trio, and they sang in churches throughout the area. My father was their accompanist. Every Saturday my father would give me a haircut, and after I would listen to the guys sing and rehearse.”

In high school, he served as student band director.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

New England

In 1955 Harris attended the New England Conservatory for a time before being drafted in 1956.  Before he left he  was part of Jackie Wilson’s first hit “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet).”

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Germany

The military did not interfere with his musical journey. He performed as guest saxophonist with the 7th Army Symphony Orchestra and Soldier’s Show Company

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Paris

After his discharge in 1959 he studied with  Nadia Boulanger in Paris before returning to Detroit.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Back in Detroit

Harris had known Berry Gordy, Jr and when Harris returned to Detroit in 1961, he became part of Gordy’s growning  Motown enterprise. He worked with Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Woodstock

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Bassist friend Rod Hicks got Harris to join the Paul Butterfield Blues Band,  which led to Harris’s presence at Woodstock. He described flying over the site as looking at “biggest Indian pow-wow in the world.

After Paul Butterfield, Harris spent 16 years as musical director for the Supremes.

Post Woodstock

In the early 1980s Harris formed the New Breed Bebop Society Orchestra while heading a summer arts workshop for economically disadvantaged youngsters.

During the mid 1980s, Harris led the house band at Dummy George’s, and led a big band often accompanied with The Detroit Voices.

Awards

Some of the awards he received were: Outstanding Contributions (United Negro College Fund) 1986; Distinguished Recognition Medal (City of Detroit) 1990; State of Michigan Special Tribute 1992; Legends of Jazz International Hall of Fame; Michiganian of the Year 1993; Jazz Masters Award 1993; 1993 Key to the City of Detroit; Spirit of Detroit Award 1994, Governor’s Michigan Artist Award 1995.

Teddy Harris died of prostate cancer at John D Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.

The Motown Forever site said of HarrisThere was always an elegance about Teddy Harris Jr., from the fluid caress of his piano and saxophone work, to the curlicue grace and bebop lyricism of his arrangements, to the hip presence with which he led his bands and mentored generation after generation of young jazz musicians.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr
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Grateful for Robert Hunter

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter at Miller Hall, PA on September 28, 2013.

June 23, 1941 – September 23, 2019

As we go through our daily routines, having someone else’s words as companions is comforting.

Robert Hunter’s lyrics have been that faithful companion.

Rolling Stone magazine said of himConsidered one of rock’s most ambitious and dazzling lyricists, Hunter was the literary counterpoint to the band’s musical experimentation. His lyrics — heard in everything from early Dead classics like “Dark Star” and “China Cat Sunflower” and proceeding through “Uncle John’s Band,” “Box of Rain,” “Scarlet Begonias,” and “Touch of Gray”— were as much a part of the band as Jerry Garcia’s singing and guitar.

Here is a taste of just a few.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Althea

I told Althea I was feeling lost
Lacking in some direction
Althea told me upon scrutiny
my back might need protection

I told Althea that treachery
was tearin me limb from limb
Althea told me: now cool down boy –
settle back easy Jim

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Black Muddy River

When the last rose of summer pricks my finger
And the hot sun chills me to the bone
When I can’t hear the song for the singer
And I 
can’t tell my pillow from a stone

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Box of Rain

Look out of any window
any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky –
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
this is all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Brokedown Palace

Fare you well my honey
Fare you well my only true one
All the birds that were singing
Have flown except you alone

Goin to leave this Broke-down Palace
On my hands and my knees I will roll roll roll
Make myself a bed by the waterside
In my time – in my time – I will roll roll roll

Grateful for Robert Hunter

China Cat Sunflower

Look for awhile at the China Cat Sunflower
proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun
Copper-dome Bodhi drip a silver kimono
like a crazy-quilt stargown
through a dream night wind

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Days Between

There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
the world grows dark and mean
Comes the shimmer of the moon
on black infested trees
the singing man is at his song
the holy on their knees
the reckless are out wrecking
the timid plead their pleas
No one knows much more of this
than anyone can see anyone can see

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Ripple

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Scarlet Begonias

I ain’t often right
but I’ve never been wrong

It seldom turns out the way
it does in the song
Once in a while
you get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Friend of the Devil

Got two reasons why I cry
away each lonely night
First one’s named sweet Anne Marie
and she’s my heart’s delight
Second one is prison, baby
the sheriff’s on my trail
If he catches up with me
I’ll spend my life in jail

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Sugar Magnolia

Sugar Magnolia blossom’s blooming
Head’s all empty and I don’t care
Saw my baby down by the river
Knew she’d have to come up soon for air

Sweet blossom come on under the willow
We can have high times if you’ll abide
We can discover the wonders of nature
Rolling in the rushes down by the riverside.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Touch of Grey

Must be getting early
Clocks are running late
Paint by number morning sky
Looks so phony

Dawn is breaking everywhere
Light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains
I don’t care ’cause
It’s all right

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Greatest Story Ever Told

Moses came riding up on a guitar
His spurs were a-jingling, the door was ajar
His buckle was silver, his manner was bold
I asked him to come on in out of the cold
His brain was boiling, his reason was spent
He said if nothing was borrowed then nothing was lent
I asked him for mercy, he gave me a gun
Said Now n’again these things just got to be done

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Terrapin Station

Let my inspiration flow
in token lines suggesting rhythm
that will not forsake me
till my tale is told and done

While the firelight’s aglow
strange shadows in the flames will grow
till things we’ve never seen
will seem familiar.

Grateful for Robert Hunter
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