Larry Graham - lead vocals, bass; David Vega - guitar; Robert Sam - keyboards, vocals; Hershall Kennedy - keyboards; Patryce Banks - percussion, vocals; Willie Sparks - drums
Graham Central Station grew out of a band called Hot Chocolate that was being produced by Sly & the Family Stone bassist, and core member, Larry Graham. Sly had slipped into an abyss of debilitating drug abuse, and the Family Stone were essentially put on hold, waiting to see whether or not Sly could get it together and re-surface. Sly did resurface again in 1974, though he still had not "gotten it together." By that time, most of the Family Stone had already moved on.
Graham went from producing Hot Chocolate to recruiting them to be his new band, hence the name: Graham Central Station. After a promising debut in 1973 on Warner Brothers Records, the group finally saw real commercial, critical and chart success in 1974, with his second studio album, Release Yourself. This recording was among the very first shows the band did to promote Release Yourself, and features mostly material from that groundbreaking disc.
With Release Yourself, GCS would see Top 10 success on Billboard R&B charts, and to a lesser degree on the Hot 100 chart. Graham proves that he was nearly as important to the Sly sound as Sly himself (after all the man is credited, for the most part, with the invention of the slap bass method) and he could be a real musical star on his own. Though this is only a five-song performance, it clearly demonstrates the musical ability of the entire band, particularly keyboardists Sam and Kennedy, who are integral in the musical climate of Graham Central Station. Guitarist David Vega is also a great asset, and notably helps open the set by performing an incendiary version of "The Star Spangled Banner" in much the same vein as Jimi Hendrix's scorching rendition.
Graham built his chops in a jazz duo with his mother, who was a keyboardist. When Bay Area DJ Sylvester Stewart heard him in a smoky jazz club one night, he encouraged Graham to join a group he was forming with his siblings and other Bay Area musicians. The group would emerge as Sly & the Family Stone, and their musical legacy remains one of the most important in contemporary music. After Stewart retreated to isolation in a haze of drug addiction, Graham formed Graham Central Station, which he led for over six years.
In the 1990s he was contacted by Prince, who initially hoped to revive the career of Sly & the Family Stone. But when he realized Stewart was still unable to mount a successful reunion, he decided to focus on bringing back Graham and a new version of Graham Central Station. In the end, Graham released a new LP on Paisley Park Records and joined up with other Sly members in Prince's touring band of the late 1990s. This recording is an excellent example of the music he wrote and gave to his fans after the heyday of Sly & the Family Stone.