Larry Graham, Jr. is an American bass guitar player, both with the psychedelic soul/funk band Sly and the Family Stone, and as the founder and front-man 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’”
Life and career
Born in Beaumont, Texas, to successful musicians, Graham played bass in the highly successful and influential funk band Sly and the Family Stone from 1966 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 Bootsy Collins, Les Claypool, Louis Johnson, Mark King, Flea, Victor Wooten, Jonas Hellborg, Kim Clarke of Defunkt, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke, and John Norwood Fisher of Fishbone.
After Sly and the Family Stone, Graham formed his own band, Graham Central Station. 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”.