Wm Denny Graham II
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Originally from Jackson Mississippi, my mom taught me how to play ukulele when I was ten. (I still have that ukulele) Soon after that I learned to play guitar. When I was fourteen a homeless drifter taught me how to play harmonica while I was in California for the summer. (more on that one day) At sixteen I started playin guitar and harmonica at the same time.
I moved to Houston Texas in 1974 at seventeen. Soon I started singing quite a good bit and started going to open mics. I sorta stood out among many musicians because I played guitar and harmonica at the same time. And because I was pretty good on harp it was real easy to hop on stage with many bands around the Houston area and jam. I would go to as many clubs as I could on Friday and Saturday night's and jam. I would go to one club, sit in with the band for a couple songs then dash off headin for another stage to play on. I hit a lot of clubs on the weekends and met a lot of musicians. I sat in with Blues bands, country bands, Old time 50’s and 60’s Rock-n-Roll bands, Cajun/Zydeco, Reggae, Rock, Folk,,,,,. Ooops,, forgot to mention I even sat in with the late great’s Floyd Tillman with Johnny Gimble one night at the "Whiskey River Club" in Houston around 1977. (old-time musicians from teXas know that’s sayin sumtin right thar now I tell ya)
In those years I jammed with some great local Houston talent as well as regional and national acts like Jerry Jeff Walker, Isaac Payton Sweat (The King of The "Cotton Eyed Joe"), Gary P. Nunn, Shake Russell, Dean Scott (was on the Johnny Carson show twice), Roy Head (had the big hit in the early 60’s titled “Treat Her Right”), Mean Gene Kelton (the best biker bar band in Texas), Brian and Kevin Black (Brothers of Clint Black) and many more.
I was in several bands from 1979 thru 1987. Blues bands, Country and Classic Rock bands and even an original rock band.
In 1990 me and 3 other musicians formed a band that honestly kicked butt. “The Texas Riviera’s”. We did a lot of Blues and grovin 50’s rock-N-Roll. All dance music. I will be adding a lot more info, and photos/videos, of these bands later.
In 1993 I performed on the main stage at the 22nd Annual Kerrville Folk Festival of Texas playing harmonica with the very talented singer/songwriter Doug Clark Steiger from Austin.
Then for about 2 years I did my first run at earning a living as full-time solo act, singing, playing guitar and harmonica in the Houston area.
In 1995 I formed my own true first band, “Denny Graham and the Riviera’s”. We were very entertaining and played a mixture of dance songs. We were sort of a party band, complete with taking us to wearin Elvis Sunglasses and even Sombrero’s on a few songs.
During these early and mid 90’s time period I played harp with Jerry Jeff Walker several times. I’m a big fan. I have to say here that the very first time I sat in with him was really in the late 70’s at Fitzgerald’s Club in Houston on one song. I wasn’t good enough on harp back then to stay on stage for a second song, and rightfully so. But the next time I played with him I could hold my own with no problem. Played the whole last set with him. (many photos of that night coming soon) That was in 1992 at the old Rockefellers Club on Washington Blvd in Houston. Then a few weeks later I sat in with him at the old Black Forest Club, just a few blocks from Rockerfellers Club. About a year later in 1992 he did a big double-barreled celebration in Austin. He celebrated his 50th birthday and also the release of his new album “Hill Country Rain”. When I was at the reception at The Driskill Hotel, along with a few hundred others, Jerry walked in and several of us grabbed chairs and made a circular jam session in the middle of the banquet room. There were several other musicians there and we all jammed and had a fantastic time. It was great.
A few months after that I had a very memorable time jammin with Jerry Jeff in Luckenbach. I arrived so late that night that I missed the band but after they finished Jerry walked across from the dancehall to the bar in the back of the store where a lot of us were hangin out after the band had finished. When he walked in I went to my truck and grabbed my harps and my guitar. Jerry used my guitar because the crew had already packed up his guitar. I handed my guitar to Jerry Jeff and we had a great time playing for the crowd for quite awhile,,,, by the old pot-bellied stove. At midnight the bar had to close because Texas law says you have to close at midnight if the establishment has a wine and beer license only. So Jerry had everyone follow him across the creek in the back to, no telling what. But I’ll never forget, I was actually the one in the front with Jerry behind me. As Jerry and I were walking together he whispered to me, “Hondo and I built this bridge”.
When we crossed the bridge Jerry led us to a campfire surrounded with bales of hay, made ready to order. Jerry and his personal “Sheriff”, John Cook (who’s dad was cameraman on the Austin City Limits show) had everything planned. That campfire was our home, talkin and playin music, till around 5 AM. Jerry, Sheriff John, myself and others crashed in tents and trucks, got about 2 hours sleep and had breakfast at a small place on 290 in Stonewall. We were clowns in the restaurant to say the least.
There were several people there that special night in Luckenbach. Many of the people that were there took photos and videos of it all. I never got one single copy of any of it. (if you’re reading this and you were there and have pics or vids of it please send me copies. ,,,, I’ll pay)
Jammin with Jerry during that time period was special to me. The reason is, not only am I a fan of his music, but because he was one of the key artist that created the outlaw country music scene in the Austin area in the mid 70’s. He along with his band, “The Lost Gonzo Band”, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, Townes Van Zandt, Gary P. Nunn, Michael Murphy,,,,and several others. During this time period, “Magic Happened”. (and all the whilst a little feller named “Peter Cedarstacker” would write in the pages of the “Comfort News” newspaper, just for fun,,,,,,,, under a big full moon)
From 1997 to 2000, I lived on a 37 foot sailboat I had at the time in Kemah Texas. I performed as a full-time solo and a duo act for the last 1 ½ years I was there. I loved the lifestyle of being around boats. Sailboats, living on one and being around the people that also live on their boats. Some of those folks from back then are in Belize now. Some moved back to land, like I did. And a few of them to this very day are still living at the same marina I lived at,,,,,,, (I know cause not long ago I seen the little buggars, peepin out their ports and hatches, washin their forks and knives,,,,,, cookin corned beef and cabbage,,,, whilst sippin on Cap’n Morgan)
While working at my regular day job again, I accepted a project out of town just before 911. It was in Tyler Texas. I was there much longer than expected. From 2003 to 2005 I was a member of group from that area, "The Shadows Band" from Kilgore Texas. (there are other bands called “Shadows something” but only one from Kilgore). We played a lot of very upscale private events around the area doing lot’s of 50’s and 60’s rock-n-roll, some old-time R & B, country and misc classic’s. I sang vocals with 3 other vocalists in the group and of course I played harp. One of the vocalist played rhythm guitar, another played lead guitar and another on Sax. Four vocalist. We had the vocals covered. There were seven members of the band and sometimes we added a guest piano player. In 2003 we recorded a CD. Right after that we performed in Dallas for the annual Lone Star Biker Bash. Also in 2003 we opened for Tanya Tucker at the annual Kilgore Derrick Festival in downtown Kilgore Texas and then John Conlee for the same event the next year in 2004. On January 19th, 2005 we were flown to Washington D.C. to perform the next day at one of the Inaugural Balls for the re-election of President George W. Bush. We were the opening act for ZZ TOP. Wow, what an event that was. I even stayed an extra 3 days to visit as much as I could see around D.C. Washington D. C. is an incredible place. I hope to go back some day. It's on my "bucket list".
All three members of ZZ Top, along with myself, are from Houston. Through the years while I’ve lived here I’ve bumped into the band members from time to time around town. I've never really got to know them personally but I was first introduced to them around 1980 by the drummer in the band I was in. It was at a Stevie Ray Vaughn concert at Fitzgerald’s Club in Houston. This was before Stevie released his first album, "Texas Flood”. I’ll never forget it. Billy, Dusty and Frank had front center seats. The place was packed and sizzling like a steak on the grill. Yup! It was a scene. An “event”. Everyone was stunned by this young 6 stringer blastin off into mystic paradise playin the blues and takin it where it had never been before,,, “In The Forefront”.
Since I arrived in Texas in 1974 I’ve performed off and on through the years as a solo and also a duo act and have also been the front man on lead vocals and harmonica in several bands. I enjoy playing music for a living. Singin, playing guitar and harmonica. My true goals are to produce a couple CD’s, living on my sailboat, a "Vagabond 47", spend time with my family and friends and spend some of my time and money helping children causes, our Vets and also the elderly. After that, I can say that I have done all I really expect to do in life.