Born in Calgary, Graham Shaw’s family moved often when he was a child, living at times in Montreal and Regina. They settled in Winnipeg in the early ’60s, and always a musically inclined person, spent a short period in The Deverons with Burton Cummings, until Cummings left to join The Guess Who.
He then formed his own group called The Serenaders in 1970, and for a little more than a year worked the prairies circuit. But when that lineup fell apart, Shaw drifted around trying out various projects for the next few years, until reinventing his old band under the new name of The Sincere Serenaders in ’77. His vocal prowess began getting noticed as they toured the prairies again, and he was signed to a solo deal in 1980 with Capitol Records.
Produced by Kenny Edwards, GRAHAM SHAW & THE SINCERE SERENADERS was released later that year. The lead-off track “Can I Come Near” got him instant national exposure and drew natural comparisons to The Beatles with its laid back AOR melody. It became his only single to peak in the top 20 (#15) on the Canadian charts, and also had pockets of support in the US. The follow-up single “French Lady” was on the airwaves by that fall, but stalled at #32. Still, he found himself on the podium at the Juno Awards festivities, winning for Most Promising Male Vocalist.
Sales were good enough to keep the band on the road across Canada for the better part of a year, and he returned from the studios in ’81 with his follow-up album, GOOD MANNERS IN THE 1980S, again produced by Kenny Edwards. But unlike his first record, that was comprised solely of original material, this one had Shaw’s sampling and rendition of Conti’s opus masterpiece “Pentatus” (a version of which was used for CityTV’s “CityPulse Tonight” newscasts in the ’80s). Three singles were released – but “I Can’t Say No,” “All Night Long” and “Jolene” all failed to crack the top 40.
With sales far less than the label’s execs were hoping for, and unable to break ground south of the border, Capitol dropped Shaw and his Serenaders from their roster in 1982. He continued to tour throughout Canada for a few years, then dropped out of sight. He re-emerged in the late ’80s and continues to tour sporadically today, more often than not with at least some of the Serenaders in tow, and in particular in and around the Winnipeg area. This has included practically every reunion festival of Manitoba musicians that’s happened, including the Manitoba Homecoming Festival in 2010 and the Bitter Pill – The Bill Merrit Tribute show at the Winnipeg Convention Centre a year later.