Together, they are Will Graves and Soul

Profile of a Memphis Musician.

Nina A. Johnson | 12/5/2015, 10:01 a.m.
Profile of a Memphis Musician.
Carl Caspersen on bass, Will Graves on keys, Courtney Barnes on Drums and T.O. Crivens on lead guitar. Photo by Nina A. Johnson

OK, I have really been tripping and slipping. I have neglected my duties as a true entertainment reporter and fan because I have NOT profiled Will Graves and Soul, one of the hottest and most talented bands to grace a Memphis stage. So come with me on this brief journey down to Memphis Sounds Lounge and allow me to introduce you to my guys.

Better yet, here’s how Will Graves does it:

“Ladies and gentlemen, Prentice Wulff on trombone and vocals, Christopher Leon Barnes on percussion and vocals, Thomas O’Neal Crivens, Jr. on lead guitar and vocals, Courtney ‘Dr. Foot’ Barnes on drums and vocals, Christopher Styles Davis on bass and vocals.

Will Graves, II founded the group Will Graves and Soul in 2003 after a stint as a member of a number of other groups. (Photo: Nina Allen-Johnson)

Will Graves, II founded the group Will Graves and Soul in 2003 after a stint as a member of a number of other groups. (Photo: Nina Allen-Johnson)

“And I am William Henry Graves, Jr. . . . and together we are Will Graves and Soul!”

That is the introduction Will gives at the opening of each Feel Good Friday show. And that is where it all begins. For about three hours or so, the band takes you on a musical journey that is a juxtaposition of musical styles and genres that is far from conventional and spans a multitude of generations.

With sets that feature selections such as, “Brother Louie” (Stories), “All I Do” (Stevie Wonder), “Benny & The Jets” (Elton John), “Play that Funky Music” (Wild Cherry), and “New Frontier” (Donald Fagen Band), this band crosses all cultural barriers and brings about a sound so unique and unmistakable that when you hear them, you instantly know who it is. You are bound to hear “Who’s That Lady?” or “Footsteps in the Dark” (The Isley Brothers), “Golden Time of Day” (Maze featuring Frankie Beverly), and any Bobby Womack song.

They will also hit you with a few of Will’s original numbers, “Dreams (Hello Beautiful)”, “I Hate it When You Leave”, and of course they will butter your “Biscuit” tonight. Their repertoire is endless, and the individuals each bring their own dynamic to the group.

The son of Bishop William H. Graves (the 42nd Bishop of the CME Church) and Alfretta Graves (a pianist and songstress herself) Will Graves comes from music.

“My two older sisters Jacqui and Ameera taught me to sing and harmonize around the house growing up,” Will said. “I sang in church and school choirs. I studied vocal music and percussion at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, and I started singing and playing professionally for weddings and churches at age 15.”

Graves said he started recording and doing demos at 17. He’s also performed with Jackie McCraven, John Williams and Larry Springfield in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. In 2003, he decided to start his own band — and Will Graves and Soul was born.

The alumni list of musicians to play in Will Graves and Soul is quite impressive. There are 26 former band members in all, and Will can name each one. He and Chris Barnes are the only two original members in the group. And of the musicians that currently make up the band, each member is so talented that they all work in multiple musical entertainment capacities.