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Crazy Luke Graham (1940-2006)

  

Real NameJames Grady Johnson

Lifespan - 2/5/1940 - 6/23/2006

6’2” 270 lbs. - Union Point, GA


Athletic Background - n/a

Teacher(s) - Tony Santos

AliasesPretty Boy Calhoun

Peak Years - `64-`71

Place in HistoryWorking a character can be difficult for some, but for Luke Graham, playing a lunatic seemed to come very naturally.  As a kid in Georgia, Grady Johnson fell in love with pro-wrestling, later claiming to be entranced with Dr. Jerry Graham.  Years later, after breaking into the business, Johnson was recommended as a partner for the infamous Graham and he headed to Western Canada to become Luke Graham.  The Golden Grahams had been on of the hottest heel acts of the period and Luke effectively replaced Eddie within the team.  “Fabulous” Luke Graham was able to learn all the tricks under Dr. Jerry, one of the greatest heels of all-time, and soon developed many of his trademarks.  Like his “brothers,” he bleached his hair and when he later grew his signature goatee, he bleached that as well.  Dr. Jerry, for all of his talents as a worker, was a self-destructive type and the moderate Luke was able to learn a great deal before striking out on his own.  Los Angeles was the first place, but it was hardly the last.  Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, Crazy Luke Graham rotated between Los Angeles and Hawaii out West, Georgia and Tennessee in the South and the occasional run in New York.  Graham worked on top as a single or in tags with similar oddballs like Ripper Collins, Moondog Mayne or Tarzan Tyler.  He, unlike many others who carried the Graham name, had a solid reputation as reliable and likeable.  Inside the ring, Luke Graham mastered his craft as a heel.  He became infamous for using his taped thumb as his offensive arsenal, which became his calling card.  Ernie Ladd, Bob Orton Jr. and many others used this same heat-getting tactic throughout their own careers, but Crazy Luke is widely regarded as the man who first popularized it.  Graham’s other innovation was another heat-generating trick.  The announcer would introduce him as “Crazy Luke,” he would protest and in doing so gave the audience permission to taunt him throughout the match that followed.  Luke became increasingly agitated by their chanting, going into a near panic attack, cupping his ears and running around the ring.  Rather than playing a madman with over-the-top histrionics whenever he was in front of a crowd, Luke played a schizophrenic, who was a typical roughhouse heel who suddenly shifted into his maniacal, wild-eyed looks.  It worked and he was able to keep moving around and staying fresh with his well-developed formula.  By the late 1970s, Luke Graham was aging and putting on weight, he was still effective with his mannerisms.  Stalking around the ring in his colorful checkered tights looking like a deranged Colonel Sanders, Crazy Luke was able to work steadily through the 1980s.  His style was a constant barrage of heel tactics, which worked for many years although it seems slow and plodding looking back at it.  Luke Graham took on a disciple in Crazy Luke Graham Jr., who would be the last link to the Golden Grahams (a fictional family of pro-wrestlers with largely Hall of Fame careers).  His career wound down as the pro-wrestling game had left him behind.  Crazy Luke Graham might be dismissed as merely a third Graham brother, not unlike how people think of Jerry Valiant with the Valiants, Jimmy Garvin with the Freebirds or even Crush with Demolition.  While he and Dr. Jerry were not as successful as the previous incarnation of the Golden Grahams, Fabulous Luke went on to develop his own distinct persona and was a true original.  Although he might have been not be the most athletic or physically impressive, Crazy Luke owned his character and got over most everywhere he went.

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