Grachan Moncur III was born in New York City at Sydenham Hospital on June 3, 1937 into a musical family that included his Uncle Al Cooper, leader of the Savoy Sultans, and Grachan's father, Grachan Brother Moncur II who played bass as a member of Savoy Sultans. His father also played with such notables as Billie Holiday, Diana Washington, and pianist Teddy Wilson among others.
Grachan's early musical studies started at Laurinburg Institute under the musical direction of Frank H. McDuffie Jr. and Phillip Hilton, a very advanced trombonist and student. His trombone playing began with the all-state marching band and he eventually became a member of the jazz combo. He rapidly moved forward to become leader of the Laurinburg Jazz Septet, and musical director of Laurinburg's traveling musical revue that included singers, dancers and a variety of talented performers.
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