Maybe there's a Memphian out there who doesn't know Graham Winchester, 31, the musical mainstay who drums for more than half a dozen bands, guides tours at Sun Studio, and has hosted a number of tribute benefit concerts, like 2016's Memphis Does Bowie: Benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Oh, and that's all when he's not home with his wife, parenting two toddlers.
Winchester, whose groups dabble in bluegrass, punk, rock-and-roll, soul, and other genres, may not be the hardest-working musician in Memphis, but he certainly makes a case for himself as such. This spring, that hard work pays off, as the drumming dad hosts a songwriter series at Bar DKDC and releases two (two!) records — a self-titled solo 45 out on Madjack Records (with a release concert at Bar DKDC Friday, March 13th), and a full-length LP by Turnstyles, the duo of Winchester and multi-instrumentalist Seth Moody, out on Black and Wyatt Records in April.
- Graham Winchester
So how did Winchester get behind the drum kit for so many Memphis groups? He started early, when he was 10 years old. "When I started playing drums, I had to play pots and pans for at least a year," Winchester remembers, explaining that his parents wanted to make sure he was invested before buying a drum set. "I don't blame them. If you buy your kid drums, is it going to be annoying for two weeks and then collect dust?"
Before long, though, Winchester switched his pots and pans for a snare and toms, and he even began hosting band practices at his house. "My parents were cool enough to tolerate that." His band mates would leave their instruments at Winchester's house between practices, and while they were away, Winchester would play — anything he could get his musical mitts on. That gave the fledgling musician early experience with other instruments, which would serve him well years later when he began writing his own songs. Before that, though, Winchester had to get his first taste of the stage.
"I started playing in clubs in Memphis when I was 13," Winchester laughs, remembering getting his cheeks pinched during ladies' nights on the old Highland Strip. Because not all parents are as willing to let their kid learn to play an instrument without a volume knob, drummers are always in demand. "I'm probably the youngest person in just about every band I'm in," Winchester says. "So there's a lot of older experience shaping my playing."
All those years, Winchester was getting a front-row seat in the class of songcraft, which, in turn, only increased his cachet in local circles. "If I'm singing and drumming, live or in the studio, I can pack a punch where I want to," he says. "I can bring out that energy."
That energy will be in high demand this spring, as Winchester juggles his Wednesday-night songwriter series at Bar DKDC with a series of record releases, from this Friday's solo 45 release to Turnstyles' Cut You Off at The Cove in April. Turnstyles' debut was recorded in Moody's basement in a single night. "We did 12 songs, with the vocals," Winchester says. "We cut from 7 p.m. to 5 in the morning and got a whole record done in one night, Please Please Me Beatles-style."
Whether Winchester's ability to run on minimal sleep is thanks to his time playing late-night shows in the Memphis bar scene or helping out with the kids at home is anyone's guess, but he finds inspiration whenever and wherever he can. "The kids really inspire me, and they make me want to go out and work, just in the most basic way, to bring home money to support them. I want them to have a great future," Winchester says. "And their personalities inspire me. They remind me of the purest form of art, just the fun side of it." Winchester laughs before adding, "And I try to sleep when I can."
Graham Winchester releases his album at Bar DKDC on Friday, March 13th, 7:30 p.m. Winchester hosts his Songwriter Series at Bar DKDC, Wednesdays, through March 25th.