Take It From the Top: Chris Graf (1966-2022)

I was deeply saddened to learn this week of the death of a long-time Albany-era friend, Chris Graf. We were about the same age, making his passing seem all the more too shocking and too soon than it might have otherwise.

Chris was a founder and long-time core member of The Weasels, one of my very favorite musical groups. I did a deep dig review of their brilliant latest album, The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, nearly a quarter century after I had ranked their sophomore album, Leon’s Mystical Head, in the silver medal spot of my Top Ten Albums of 1995 list. And there are a lot of other great albums and songs between those poles, one featuring some of my lyrics, and one featuring me making wobbly noises on my theremin. I was proud to contribute to their musical projects in my own small way.

In 1998, I interviewed Chris, his brother Ray (a radio personality of some renown in public broadcasting circles, married to another dear friend, Miss Nicole), and Weasel-singer/lyricist/sax-man Dr. Fun (one of the most delightfully acerbic and insightful writers I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, and a fine legal mind to boot) for a feature article in Metroland. You can read that complete interview here. Or, for an even fuller telling of their story, you can check out The Weasels’ Wikipedia Page, which I’ve been curating since I first established it on February 10, 2006.

Chris, Ray and I worked closely together for a few years on the Sounding Board television program (a Youtube-quality sample here), initially with Chris and I taking to the backstreets of Albany to film my “As You Were” free-form rants, then in the studio after I began hosting and co-booking the show. Lots of hard work, lots of great music, lots of laughs, and lots of Hot Pockets, throughout that rewarding creative project. Around that same time, I was also fortunate enough to catch what is, to date, the very last live Weasels performance, on October 28, 2000, at Valentine’s Music Hall in Albany. Chris manned the mixing board and added off-stage samples for that gig, which was a great one.

Chris stopped working with The Weasels for a few years, but thankfully he returned for one last, great album with the group, The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (that’s the one reviewed above). He and his brother Ray and various other members of the long-time core Weasels instrumental team also rolled out a new project last year, earning a spot on my “Best Albums of 2021” report, with the High Fidelity Virtue Signaling LP credited to The Flying Bobs. Chris co-produced, arranged, and mixed the album, wrote about half of its tracks, worked on its cover design, played guitar, keys, and trumpet, and sang on every track, in either lead or backing vocal capacities. It’s a choice recording. You need it. It’s a fantastic tribute to his talents.

Ray tells me there’s a second Flying Bobs album in the can, yet to be released, so I’ll look forward to getting another dose of that Brothers Graf Thang in the months to come. I’ll toast Chris with a Hot Pocket (I think I’m gonna go with a sausage one) when it arrives, and I’ll miss him and celebrate his life, at that moment and beyond. He was a good dude, in the best senses of that phrase, and I’ll fondly remember a lot of laughs together, along with a lot of rambling conversations about the types of books and music and films that “normal people” don’t normally like.

In closing, I send all of my love today to Ray, Miss Nicole, their brood, the extended Weasels family, and to Chris’ delightful and talented wife, Rena (who added killer vocals on my favorite Flying Bobs song, “Kinkade“) through the difficult times they’re living through. Too young. Too soon. Too heart-breaking.

Action shots from the back cover of The Flying Bobs debut album, recorded in Chris’ Big Saucy Sound studio.

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