“I came up with slap bass out of necessity. I was basically trying to play drums on the bass”: Larry Graham recounts the birth of “thumpin’ and pluckin’”

Bassist Larry Graham of the psychedelic soul group 'Sly And The Family Stone' plays a Vox electric bass as he works on an album for the 'Spaulding Wood Affair' which Sly Stone was producing on June 25, 1968 in New York, New York.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

By the time the bass guitar came along in 1951, upright bass players had been slapping and pulling on their strings for several decades. Milt Hinton was one such player who pioneered a percussive technique that involved pulling on the strings, and slapping ghost notes with both the top and bottom of his palm.

The technique didn’t make the jump to the electric bass guitar until the late ‘60s. When it did, it was thanks to a young bass player from Texas named Larry Graham. Born into a musical family, Graham was playing organ pedals and guitar in his mother's working band by the time he was in his teens. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.