Sly And The Family Stone

Sly Stone




Sly and the Family Stone managed to turn the music business of their time into a new direction. Eventhough younger people will not remember the band, their influence can still be heard in today's music. Due to the fact that Sly Stone dissapeared from the scene at the beginning of the 80s, something like a Sly Stone mythos surrounds his band. Subsequently it is very difficult to tell what really happened and depending on who you ask you will get your answers. Here are some basics:

Sly Stone was born Sylvester Steward on March 15, 1941 in Denton, Texas, but grew up in Vallejo, California. Early in his life he showed great interest in music - first singing with his family in the Steward Four in 1952 (gospel music). While studying music at Vallejo Junior College Sly began playing in several groups on the Bay Area scene - recording several singles. For Bobby Freeman he produced the hit single "C'mon and Swim" in 1964. This enabled Sly to move his family to San Francisco. Sly also worked as a disc jockey for the local R&B radio stations KSOL and later KDIA.

In addition to his radio job Sly worked for Autumn Records and produced several Bay Area bands of that time like The Great Society, the Beau Brummels and the Mojo Man.

While working both of these jobs the already well know disc jockey Sly began to look for a way to express his new musical ideas. In 1967 he founded - one could also say created - Sly and the Family Stone. This band had members from several racial backgrounds, featuring male and female members. Right from the start it was clear that this band was totally different to all the other Bay Area Bands at that time - not only because they attracted mostly a white audience.

Family Stone

The Family Stone consisted of Sly's brother Freddy (guitar), Larry Graham (bass), Cynthia Robinson (trumpet), Sly's sister Rose (piano), Jerry Martini (saxophone) and Greg Errico (drums). With this line-up Sly produced the first single "I Ain't Got Nobody" for the local label Loadstone which became a local hit and led to a contract with Epic Records.

At the end of 1967 Sly and the Family Stone released their first album "A Whole New Thing". Althought this album wasn't successful the next album "Dance To The Music" gave them a Top Ten hit with its title track early in 1968. This enabled the band to not only to play the colleges but also turn to the bigger ballroms. Sharing the bill with well known acts like the Jimmy Hendrix Experience. As a matter of fact it was Sly's band driving the people insane and their live reputation grew. The third album "Life" didn't produce any hits which in retrospect is hard to believe because it delivered the same irresistible dance-funk tracks.

The next album "Stand!" would stay over 100 weeks in the charts though - climbing to number 13 (4/12/69). The album delivered such great tracks as "Everyday People" (chart peak #1 2/13/69), "Stand", "Sing A Simple Song", "I Want To Take You Higher" and "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey". The latter song introduced Sly's political songwriting to the people. Another thing introduced was the bands preference for drugs. Their British tour was called off because Larry Graham got busted for possession of cannabis when they reached London Airport. It wasn't cannabis though that would - a few albums later - destroy Sly's creativeness and lead to the demise of the band ...

One of the bands best live appearances took place at the Woodstock festival in 1969. Although their appearance was in the middle of the night they could make the people wake up, get up and start dancing. Something the other bands that night hardly achieved. The band also released two non-album hit singles, "Hot Fun In the Summertime" (chart peak #2, 1969) and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" (chart peak #1, 2/9/70). Unfortunately, on the height of their success, Sly Stone's drug addiction became worse and he got famous for arriving late for his concerts or not appearing at all.

Nevertheless the fifth album "There's A Riot Going On" reached number one in 1971. The album also included the hit single "Family Affair" (chart peak #1, 11/30/71). Growing tension within the band led to the replacement of Larry Graham and Greg Errico. From now on every follwing album would see several line-up changes and diminishing success. "Fresh" was released in the middle of 1973 and featured new members Rusty Allen and Andy Newmark. The album reached the Top Ten (chart peak #7, 8/17/73) and produced one Top Ten single - "If You Want Me To Stay" (chart peak #12, 9/12/73). The following album "Small Talk" managed to reach chart number 15 (11/8/74) but didn't generate any single hits. Earlier in 1974 Sly married Kathleen Silva, who is pictured with Sly and their son on the cover of "Small Talk". The marriage itself took place in Madison Square Garden before 21000 guests. All this happiness didn't last very long though and they separated less than a year later. In addition the Family Stone lost it's magic and Sly who was happily into heavy drugs didn't seem to care anymore.

All of this didn't mean that no more albums were released. In 1976 Sly released "High On You" which was attributed to himself and not to Sly and the Family Stone. Although it is a good funk album, it didn't reach a high chart position. "High On You" is probably Sly's most underrated album and despite all of his drug problems one can still hear Sly's talent. The next album "Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back" (1976) is a rather simple album compared to his predecessor. It should be mentioned that it was attributed to Sly and the Family Stone again, including several new members - one of them being Sound Hole's Johnny Colla who would team up with Huey Lewis and the News a few years later.

 Sly Stone

Sly Stone in 2006
  Sly would release two more albums "Back On The Right Track" (1979) and "Ain't But The One Way" (1982) - both of them received almost no attention. Not because the music on these albums is bad, it's just that Sly kept repeating himself and people expected something else. Once being able to change musical trends he no longer was able to re-invent himself. What else can be said - between those last two albums Sly did a little bit of touring on his own and with George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars. He appeared on Jesse Johnson's 1986 R&B hit "Crazay" and on the "Soul Man" soundtrack singing a duet with Martha Davis. In 1987 he was once again imprisoned for drug possession. His last public appearance was in 1993 for his induction to the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame.

All of this is quite depressing for those who truly love Sly's music. Nevertheless, people who don't know Sly and the Family Stone should check out their music, especially the early works. The music is full of creativeness and influenced a whole generation.

In February 2006 the 61 year old Sly Stone performed "I Want To Take You Higher" with his old band the Family Stone at the Grammys, Sly departed after just a few verses though. Looks like there is still some fire inside of him.


Discography (not including Best Of albums):

  • 1967 A Whole New Thing (Epic)
  • 1968 Dance To The Music (Epic)
  • 1968 Life (Epic)
  • 1969 Stand! (Epic)
  • 1971 There's A Riot Goin' On (Epic)
  • 1973 Fresh (Epic)
  • 1974 Small Talk (Epic)
  • 1975 High On You (Epic)
  • 1976 Heard You Missed Me, Well I'm Back (Epic)
  • 1979 Back On The Right Track (Warner Brothers)
  • 1982 Ain't But The One Way (Warner Brothers)

    A Whole New ThingSly and the Family Stone
    A Whole New Thing

    (Epic 1967)
    Underdog -- If This Room Could Talk -- Run, Run, Run -- Turn Me Loose -- Let Me Hear It From You -- Advice -- I Cannot Make It -- Trip To Your Heart -- I Hate To Love Her -- Bad Risk -- That Kind Of Person -- Dog -- What Would I Do *

    *Previously unissued - added to Sony's 1995 re-release of the album on CD.

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Freddy Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham, Greg Errico

    Dance To The MusicSly and the Family Stone
    Dance To The Music

    (Epic 1968)
    Dance To The Music -- Higher -- I Ain't Nobody (For Real) -- Dance To The Medley -- Music Is Alive/Dance In/Music Lover -- Ride The Rhythm -- Color Me True -- Are You Ready -- Don't Burn Baby -- I'll Never Fall In Love Again -- Soul Clappin' *

    *Previously unissued - added to Sony's 1995 re-release of the album on CD.

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Freddy Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham, Greg Errico

    LifeSly and the Family Stone

    (Epic 1968)
    Dynamite! -- Chicken -- Plastic Jim -- Fun -- Into My Own Thing -- Harmony -- Life -- Love City -- I'm An Animal -- M'Lady -- Jane Is A Groupee -- Only One Way Out Of This Mess *

    *Previously unissued - added to Sony's 1995 re-release of the album on CD.

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Freddy Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham, Greg Errico

    Stand!Sly and the Family Stone

    (Epic 1969)
    Stand! -- Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey -- I Want To Take You Higher -- Somebody's Watching You -- Sing A Simple Song -- Everyday People -- Sex Machine -- You Can Make It If You Try

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Freddy Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham, Greg Errico

    There's A Riot Goin' OnSly and the Family Stone
    There's A Riot Goin' On

    (Epic 1971)
    Luv N' Haight -- Just Like A Baby -- Poet -- Family Affair -- Africa Talks To You "The Asphalt Jungle" There's A Riot Going On -- Brave And Strong -- (You Caught Me) Smilin' -- Time -- Spaced Cowboy -- Runnin' Away -- Thank You For Talkin' To Me Africa

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Freddy Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham, Greg Errico

    FreshSly and the Family Stone

    (Epic 1973)
    In Time -- If You Want Me To Stay -- Let Me Have It All -- Frisky -- Thankful N' Thoughful -- Sin I'm In -- I Don't Know (Satisfaction) -- Keep On Dancin' -- Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) -- If It Were Left Up To Me -- Babies Makin' Babies

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Freddy Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Rusty Allen, Andy Newmark, Pat Rizzo, Little Sister

    Small TalkSly and the Family Stone
    Small Talk

    (Epic 1974)
    Small Talk -- Say You Will -- Mother Beautiful -- Time For Livin' -- Can't Strain My Brain -- Loose Booty -- Holdin' On -- Wishful Thinkin' -- Better Thee Than Me -- Livin' While I'm Livin' -- This Is Love

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Rose Banks, Jerry Martini, Cynthia Robinson, Pat Rizzo ...

    High On YouSly Stone
    High On You

    (Epic 1975)
    I Get High On You -- Crossword Puzzle -- That's Lovin' You -- Who Do You Love? -- Green Eyed Monster Girl -- Organize -- Le Lo Li -- My World -- So Good To Me -- Greed

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Vet Stewart, Rusty Allen, Dawn Silva, Tiny Melton, Rudy Love, Dennis Marcellino, Cousin Gale (= Gail Muldrow), Bobby Vega, Michael Samuels, Willie Wild Sparks, Little Moses, Bobby Lyles, Tricky Truman Governor, Bill Lordon

    Heard You Missed Me, Well I'm BackSly and the Family Stone
    Heard You Missed Me, Well I'm Back

    (Epic 1976)
    Heard You Missed Me, Well I'm Back -- What Was I Thinkin' In My Head -- Nothing Less Than Happiness -- Sexy Situation -- Blessing In Disguise -- Everything In You -- Mother Is A Hippie -- Let's Be Together -- The Thing -- Family Again

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Joe Baker, Dwight Hogan, Johnny Colla, Steve Schuster, John Farey, Dawn Weber, Virginia Ayers, Lady Bianca, Vicky Blackwell; plus: Ed Bogas, Armando Peraza, Peter Frampton, Sister Vet, Cousin Tiny

    Back On The Right TrackSly and the Family Stone
    Back On The Right Track

    (Warner Brothers 1979)
    Remember Who You Are -- Back On The Right Track -- If It's Not Addin' Up -- The Same Thing (Makes You Laugh Makes You Cry) -- Shine It On -- It Takes All Kinds -- Who's To Say? -- Sheer Energy

    Musicians: Sly Stone, Freddie Stewart, Rose Banks, Cynthia Robinson, Pat Rizzo, Mark Davis, Joseph Baker, Keni Burke, Walter Downing, Gary Herbig, Steve Madaio, Fred Smith, Lisa Banks, Joe Baker, Hamp Banks, Alvin Taylor, Ollie E. Brown

    Ain't But The One WaySly and the Family Stone
    Ain't But The One Way

    (Warner Brothers 1982)
    L.O.V.I.N.U. -- One Way -- Ha Ha, Hee Hee -- Hobo Ken -- Who In The Funk Do You Think You Are -- You Really Got Me -- Sylvester -- We Can Do It -- High, Y'All


    Further Links:

         Sly Stone's personal website!

  • The Family Stone
         Produced by Sly Stone (official website).

         Freddy Stone's website (official website).

  • Lil Sis
         Little Sister/Vet Stewart's band (official website)


         Check out the new tribute album!!!

  • Sly And The Family Stone Dot Net
         Contains lots of info!!!

  • Rock&Roll Hall of Fame
         Sly and the Family Stone's induction



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