Graham Whorley loves Folly Beach, and is a pioneer and trailblazer of the music scene here on the island. When they write the book about music on Folly, there will be a whole chapter on him, and talking to him was an awesome education on where we are and why we are here.
He is the leader of the Graham Whorley Band, a name suggested by his bandmates to take advantage of his recognition, along with Carl Anderson on Drums and Will Ames on bass. The band has included several lineups along the way, with Herb Shirey spending 10 years on bass until he retired. His side projects include Stone Silicon, Gypsy Jazz with Will Austin, and a solo loop show. Stone Silicon is a superband consisting of Whorley, Louis D, Carl Anderson, and Jaime Crisp. It is a fun time when they all get together, which is rare considering they all have to juggle the schedule of their own bands to get a gig together. When it happens, it’s a special occasion, so clear the schedule and bring your boogie shoes.
This month will bring the release of “Permission to Think”, Whorley’s 6th album since moving to Charleston, “It’s the best stuff I have ever done” he says. It will be a pretty significant album, he wrote all the music and lyrics and plays all the instruments. As he describes the sounds on the album to me, he is beaming with pride and joy, and he talks about the 2 years he spent crafting the album, with engineer Roger Reynolds, who recently followed Graham down from Virginia. As the success of the album grows, he is planning an East Coast tour with the full band.
Twenty years ago, Graham found himself stuck in a small town in Virginia, knowing his talent and music deserved a better venue. On a bitterly cold and snowy day, he decided to follow his sister down to Charleston who had told stories of the great climate and cool culture. He discovered Folly Beach and fell in love, now considering the area his home. Later, his sister lost a battle to ALS, which sparked his interest in raising money to fight the disease. A “Band Together” concert was recently held raising $10,000 for the newly formed SC chapter of the ALS society. “It was a huge success and I would like to thank all the musicians that took part. I will make sure this becomes an annual event.”
Graham is a family man, with a wife and two kids, and he does his best to separate music and family. “Music can consume and overwhelm you, and my family is too important for that.” He encourages his kids to get involved in music, teaching them how to play and inviting them up on stage. “I believe music is a great tool to help teach you to overcome life’s struggles. Folly Beach is a great place to raise kids, there are plenty of things for the kids and the family to do.”
Sitting and talking to Graham was like hearing the timeline of Folly music. He tells me about how Folly Beach was less traveled when he arrived, Hugo had just happened and the beach had a completely different look. There were a few hot spots to play music, but not nearly as many as there are today. A tight knit group of musicians existed, and they would cross Center Street to sit in with each other during breaks in their own show. It was a very organic environment, which dictated the sound of the music, interesting and laid back.
He began by running the open jam night at Robinson Carusoe’s, and playing the Pelican on Monday nights, launching the Graham Whorley Band. “I remember , the crowd was so large, the fire marshall would shut down the Pelican nearly every time we played there.” He remembers watching Everett Bigbee play, and his favorite band was Dunzip with Jesse Prichard and Hawke. “Dunzip shows were the best.” He identifies with Jesse in the way the pair have survived for so long on Folly. “Folly has taken a slow gradual climb, which means it has deep, strong roots. When I moved here, we were struggling to make a scene, now Folly bands are going national.” He remembers the Sand Dollar always having great blues and rock music, telling me about a show where the “Sauce Boss” would perform while cooking Gumbo on stage, later serving it up to the crowd along with some tasty blues jams. The Chill & Grill gets credit for contributing to building the scene, and now Loggerheads is a great music venue, so “The future is bright.” “Whether you are born here or came here, this is a community with an interest in art and music and diversity, and wants to keep growing in good ways.”
You can see Graham Whorley October 22 at Follypalooza, and October 26th at the locals party at the Blu. Make sure to get a copy of the new album “Permission to Think”.