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A funky night of band, solo and
Sly & The Family Stone smashes

Larry Graham and Graham Central Station
City Winery
Chicago, IL
November 22, 2014
Larry Graham and Graham Central Stations Larry Graham and Graham Central Stations

Story and photos by Andy Argyrakis

Outside of careful credits readers, the name Larry Graham might not jump off the page, but make no mistake, his likeness is all over the past five decades of soul, funk, R&B and rock. Besides being an original member of Sly & The Family Stone, along with his own Graham Central Station (not to mention being the uncle of rapper Drake), the bassist is universally regarded as the inventor of the "thumbin' and pluckin'" playing technique since mirrored by Bootsy Collins (James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones), John Norwood Fisher (Fishbone) and many more.

With such a monumental history, it was a true treat to see Graham and his current incarnation of Graham Central Station up close at City Winery, which is one of the most beautiful and sonically rich rooms in Chicago with a rapidly growing list of legendary bookings. During the first of two shows, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer traced his entire lineage, building the groove with a mixture of Station and solo songs, prior to culminating with several Family Stone favorites recorded during his time in the multi-racial troupe.

Though Graham's slap-styled bass playing was obviously the main attraction, the supporting Graham Central Station was just as fiery while chugging through funk jams like "It Ain't No Fun To Me" and "Shoulda Coulda Woulda" from 2012's "Raise Up" (the group's first studio album since 1998, which also features multiple collaborations with Prince and Raphael Saadiq), alongside oldies "It's Alright" and "One In A Million You." Together, they ensured the crowd was nice and loose by the time "Family Affair" and "Hot Fun In The Summertime" rolled around, which made the classy club feel like a hot and sweaty Woodstock smack dab in the middle of the psychedelic era.

Alongside the boundary breaking music, there were also proactive messages calling for equality and peace, perhaps best demonstrated through the celebratory romp "Everyday People." There was even a tribute to the leader's frequent purple wearing collaborator during a roof raising rendition of "1999," though the grand finale of Sly's "I Want To Take You Higher" added the most sizzle, once again showcasing just what an integral component Graham was in the original Family Stone sound and beyond.

Upcoming concert highlights at City Winery include Rhett Miller with Salim Nourallah (Nov. 25); Art Alexakis of Everclear (Nov. 26); Ronnie Baker Brooks (Nov. 28); Joseph Arthur (Nov. 29); Lisa Loeb with Zachary Scot Johnson (Dec. 3); Lisa Fischer (Dec. 8, 6:30 and 9pm); Rich Robinson with Guthrie Brown (Dec. 9); The Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show (Dec. 11); Delbert McClinton (Dec. 16); Los Lobos (Dec. 17-19); Poi Dog Pondering (Dec. 26-29) and Shemekia Copeland (Dec. 31, 7:30 & 11 pm). For additional details, visit

Larry Graham and Graham Central Stations Larry Graham and Graham Central Stations
Larry Graham and Graham Central Stations Larry Graham and Graham Central Stations
Larry Graham and Graham Central Stations Larry Graham and Graham Central Stations

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