By: Marshsa Gilbert, SmoothJazzTimes.com
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ – In the past, a singer would hope to sign a contract with a large music label,
expect to get cheated out of some of his royalties, and wait for enough radio
and TV airplay to sell records and concert tickets. Today, the music industry
has dramatically improved because there are more record labels, additional ways
to promote CDs, and new music-making technologies.
Larry Graham, the legendary leader of the funk band, Graham Central Station,
recollected the dramatic differences that occurred in the music industry during
his nearly 60 years of recording, just before taking the stage recently at the
Tropicana Casino & Resort Showroom in Atlantic City, NJ.
When Graham was 13, tape was the only means available to record his first song. Now,
music quality is enhanced because digital editing is more precise, said Graham,
69, who on his latest CD, Raise Up, uses a mixture of tape along with digital:
recording, editing, keyboards, and drum machines depending on the sound that he
Nowadays, musicians don’t have to be locked into a long-term contract with a major label.
They can maintain more control over creation and royalties when they opt to
sign shorter contracts with small, privately-owned record labels, said Graham,
who was signed with Warner Brothers between 1974 to 1985 and isn’t signed to a
long-term contract with a particular label now. Since moving to Minneapolis
from Jamaica, Graham recorded one CD with NPG (New Power Generation), the local
label owned by his long-time friend, Mr. Purple Rain himself – Prince.
Also, since the arrival of the Internet, artists can be seen on places like YouTube
and Dailymotion and they have the option of distributing music through tools
such as iTunes, Spotify and the artists’ own websites. This increased
distribution improves record sales. “Everyone benefits from having different
ways to sell music,” said Graham, who played bass as part of Sly and the Family
Stone at Woodstock in 1969. More CDs sold because of the Internet translates
into more concert tickets sold. “We’ve played more places internationally than
before,” said Graham, who with Graham Central Station performed last year in Spain,
The Netherlands, Japan, Denmark, across the United States, France, and the
“The Internet has helped people in faraway places become aware of Graham
Central Station and Sly and the Family Stone and other groups,” he said.
As one of the founding fathers of Funk, Graham attributes his longevity in the
industry to his passion for music and having the right people around him. “I
love what I do,” he said. “I love music. I love our music; that comes first and
surrounding yourself with positive people.”
Graham offered advice to younger artists to help them endure in the music business.
“Open our ears and listen to what some artists who’ve been around for a while
are saying,” encouraged Graham, a 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
“There’s a lot of wisdom that’s been gathered. Have an open heart. Be aware of
opportunities around you and use the means around you of getting your music out
to people. Love what you do and work hard at what you do.”
At the Concert
During Graham’s exclusive interview with SmoothJazzTimes.com, neo soul and jazz trombonist Jeff Bradshaw and smooth jazz trumpeter Tom Browne performed together and more than sufficiently
warmed up the mostly middle-age audience for Graham Central Station. They ended their crowd-pleasing set with Browne’s mega hit, “Funkin for Jamaica” and the Gap Band’s “Running in an Out of My Life.”
When Graham took the stage with Graham Central Station they played their classic
hits including “We’ve Been Waiting/It Ain’t No Fun to Me,” “I Can’t Stand the
Rain,” and “Can You Handle It.” They mixed in new songs from their latest CD,
Raise Up, that maintain their distinctive heavy bass, funk style. Some of those
songs were “Throw-N-Down the Funk,” “It’s Alright,” and “Raise Up.”
As Graham sang his chart-topping, fan-favorite solo, “One in a Million You,” the
audience’s boisterous participation turned the experience into a group
sing-a-long, as they enthusiastically sang every word with Graham.
Graham Central Station revisited Graham’s Sly and the Family Stone days with “Everyday
People,” “Dance to the Music,” and “Thank You for Lettin’ Me be Myself, Again.”
But the concert wasn’t over when Graham switched from the bass to a tambourine
and danced the group backstage. For their encore, Graham Central Station
invited several audience members to join them on stage creating a party-like
atmosphere during a rendition of Prince’s “1999.” Afterward, Graham again
changed from the bass to the tambourine. This time he left the stage and the showroom
by going into the audience while he, Graham Central Station, and the crowd
still on stage sang Sly and the Family Stone’s classic, “Wanna Take You
Faithful Fan Following
Graham’sappeal shows no signs of stopping. He has loyal devotees that come to see him
at multiple concerts as often as they can.
Oneaudience member from Philadelphia, known in the area as “Showtime,” said he’s
been following Graham since he first started Graham Central Station in 1973.
Showtime has seen Graham perform in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Atlanta, New
York, and Las Vegas. “We follow him wherever he goes because we support him
100 percent. I love his music. His stage presence is so sharp. He shows young
performers how to perform on stage.”
Larry Graham has been an inspiration to many fans around the globe and also very close on the homefront; in case you hadn’t heard – he’s the proud uncle of Hip-Hop/R&B sensation Drake!
For more information on Larry Graham tours visit his website at www.larrygraham.com
Photo Courtesy: LarryGraham.com