Sly Stone

Sly Stone

Infobox Musical artist
Name = Sly Stone

Img_capt =
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Sylvester Stewart
Born = birth date and age|1943|3|15
Denton, Texas, U.S.
Died =
Origin = Vallejo, California, U.S.
Instrument = Vocals, organ, guitar, bass guitar, piano, keyboards, harmonica
Genre = Funk, rock, soul, R&B
Occupation = Singer, songwriter, musician, producer
Years_active = 1965 – present
Label =
Associated_acts = Sly & the Family Stone
URL = []
Current_members =
Past_members =

Sly Stone (born Sylvester Stewart on 15 March 1943, in Denton, Texas) is an American musician, songwriter, and record producer, most famous for his role as frontman for Sly & the Family Stone, a band which played a critical role in the development of soul, funk and psychedelia in the 1960s and 1970s. Sly & the Family Stone was started in Vallejo, California and eventually had artists from around the San Francisco Bay Area.


Early career

Sylvester Stewart was the second of 5 children raised in Vallejo, in the northern San Francisco Bay Area. After the family moved from Denton, Texas to Vallejo, he and his brother Freddie and their sisters Rose and Vaetta formed "The Stewart Four" as children, performing gospel music in the Church of God in Christ and even recording a single in 1952. All of the Stewart children except oldest sister Loretta would later adopt the surname "Stone" and become members of Sly & the Family Stone.

Sylvester learned to play a number of instruments, settling primarily with the guitar, and joined a number of high school bands. One of these was The Viscaynes, a doo-wop group which, excepting Sylvester and his Filipino friend, Frank Arelano, was all-white. The fact that the group was integrated made the Viscaynes "hip" in the eyes of their audiences, and would later inspire Sylvester's idea of a multicultural Family Stone. The Viscaynes released a few local singles, including "Yellow Moon" and "Stop What You Are"; during the same period, Sylvester also recorded a few solo singles under the name "Danny Stewart".

In the mid-1960s, Sly worked as a DJ for Oakland, California radio station KSOL and later KDIA and also as a record producer for Autumn Records, working with such bands in the San Francisco area as The Beau Brummels, The Mojo Men, and The Great Society. Adopting the stage name "Sly Stone," he then formed "The Stoners" in 1966 which included Cynthia Robinson on trumpet. Robinson went on to join Sly & the Family Stone as well, when it was formed at the end of 1966. Freddie Stone (guitar and vocals), Larry Graham (bass guitar and vocals), Greg Errico (drums), Jerry Martini (saxophone) Sly himself played guitar, piano, and harmonica, among other instruments, for the band's records and performances. On the first recordings Little Sister: Vet Stone, Mary McCreary, and Elva Mouton did backup vocals. In 1968 sister Rosie Stone (piano and vocals) joined the band.

Sly Stone was influential in guiding KSOL-AM into soul music and started calling the station K-SOUL. The second was a popular soul music station (sans the K-SOUL moniker), at 107.7 FM (now known as KSAN). The current KSOL is unrelated to the previous two stations.

ly & the Family Stone's success

After a mildly received debut album, "A Whole New Thing" (1967), Sly & The Family Stone had their first hit single with "Dance to the Music", which was later included on an album of the same name. Although their third album, "Life" (also 1968), also suffered from low sales, their fourth album, "Stand!" (1969), became a runaway success, selling over three million copies and spawning a number one hit single, "Everyday People." By the summer of 1969, Sly & The Family Stone were one of the biggest names in music, releasing three more top five singles, "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" / "Everybody is a Star", before the end of the year, and appearing at Woodstock.

Personal problems and decline

In the fall of 1969, Sly moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles with his then girlfriend Deborah King (currently Deborah Santana, wife of Carlos Santana). Not long after the move, he found himself crushed under stress from a number of sources: record executives wanted more product; the Black Panther Party and other black activist groups wanted Sly's music to become more militant and reflective of the black power movement (as well as demanding the removal of white musicians Errico and Martini from the band); and personal conflicts within the band. Fact|date=April 2007

The band's fifth album, "There's a Riot Goin' On" (1971), reflected the turmoil. Most of "Riot" was recorded with overdubbing as opposed to The Family Stone all playing at the same time; in fact, Sly played most of the parts himself and performed more of the lead vocals than usual.

The band's cohesion slowly began to erode, and its sales and popularity began to decline as well. Errico withdrew from the group in 1971 and was eventually replaced with Andy Newmark. Larry Graham and Sly were no longer on friendly terms, and Graham was fired in early 1972 and replaced with Rusty Allen. The band's later releases, "Fresh" (1973) and "Small Talk" (1974), featured even less of the band and more of Sly. The band's reputation for not arriving at performances caused promoters to avoid booking them, and after a disastrous engagement at the Radio City Music Hall in January 1975, The Family Stone broke apart completely.

Later years

Sly Stone went on to record four more albums as a solo artist (only "High on You" (1975) was released under just his name; the other three were released under the "Sly & The Family Stone" name). He also collaborated with Funkadelic on "The Electric Spanking of War Babies" (1981), but was unable to reinvigorate his career.

Sly did do a short tour with Bobby Womack in the summer of 1984, and he continued to make sporadic appearances on compilations and other artists' records. In 1986, Stone was featured on a track from The Time member Jesse Johnson's solo album "Shockadelica" called "Crazay". The music video featured Stone on keyboards and vocals, and received some airplay on the BET music network.

In 1987, Stone released a single, "Eek-a-Boo Static Automatic", from the "Soul Man" soundtrack. He also co-wrote and co-produced "Just Like A Teeter-Totter," which appeared on a Bar-Kays album from 1989.

Also in 1987, he was arrested in Decatur, Illinois for possession of cocaine. After his release, Stone went into semi-retirement and became a recluse. In 1990, he gave an energetic vocal performance on the Earth, Wind and Fire song, "Good Time." In 1991, he appeared on a cover of "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" performed by the Japanese band 13CATS. And he shared lead vocals with Bobby Womack on "When the Weekend Comes" from Womack's 1993 album "I Still Love You". His last major public appearance until 2006 was during the 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony where Stone, much to the surprise of everyone (including his former bandmates), showed up onstage to be entered into the Hall of Fame along with the Family Stone. In 2003, the other six members of the original Family Stone entered the studio to record a new album. Stone was invited to participate, but declined.

Stone reportedly lives near Beverly Hills or Napa Valley with two female assistants, where he records at a home studio and rides his motorcycle. A few home-studio recordings (most likely from the late 1980s) with Stone's voice and keyboards over a drum machine have made their way onto a bootleg. One Sly-penned demo called "Coming Back for More" appears to be autobiographical and includes the verse: "Been so high, I touched the sky and the sky says 'Sly, why you tryin' to get by?' Comin' back for more." His son, Sylvester Jr., told People Magazine in 1997 that his father had composed an album's worth of material, including a tribute to Miles Davis called "Miles and Miles."

On August 15, 2005, Stone drove his younger sister Vet Stone on his motorcycle to Los Angeles' Knitting Factory, where Vet was performing with her Sly & the Family Stone tribute band, the Phunk Phamily Affair. Sly kept his helmet on during the entire performance, and was described by one concertgoer as looking a little like Bootsy Collins. A film crew doing a documentary on Sly & the Family Stone was at the show and apparently captured this rare sighting on film. Sly, according to his web site, is producing and writing material for the group's new album. In addition, Sly renamed the group "Family Stone."

Friends and family say Sly continues to write songs and record in his home studio. Family Stone drummer Greg Errico told Rolling Stone in the March 2006 issue, "Sly's been calling two or three times a day lately, singing over the phone."

A new Sly Stone instrumental can be heard at the artist's Web site [] . Sly's sister, Vet, said in a recent radio interview that the song will be recorded with vocals.

Mid-2000s tributes

A Sly & the Family Stone tribute took place at the 2006 Grammy Awards on February 8, 2006, at which Sly gave his first live musical performance since 1987. Sly & the original Family Stone lineup (minus Larry Graham) performed briefly during a tribute to the band, for which the headliners included Steven Tyler, John Legend, Van Hunt, and Robert Randolph. Sporting an enormous blonde mohawk, thick sunglasses, a "Sly" beltbuckle and a silver lamé suit, he joined in on "I Want To Take You Higher." Hunched over the keyboards, he wore a cast on his right hand (the result of a recent motorcycle mishap), and a hunched back caused him to look down through most of the performance. His voice, though strong, was barely audible over the production. Sly walked to the front of the stage toward the end of the performance, sang a verse and then with a wave to the audience, sauntered offstage before the song was over. "He went up the ramp [outside the theater] , got on a motorcycle and took off," Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the Grammy Awards show told the "Chicago Sun-Times". "Yes -- there was a motorcycle there."Fact|date=February 2007

Ehrlich said Sly refused to leave his hotel room until he was given a police escort to the show and then waited in his car until the performance began.

A Sly & The Family Stone tribute album, "Different Strokes By Different Folks", was released on July 12 2005 by Starbucks' Hear Music label, and on February 7, 2006 by Epic Records. The project features both cover versions of the band's songs and songs which sample the original recordings. Among the artists for the set are The Roots ("Star", which samples "Everybody is a Star"), Maroon 5 and Ciara ("Everyday People"), John Legend, Joss Stone & Van Hunt ("Family Affair"), the Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am ("Dance to the Music"), and Steven Tyler and Robert Randolph ("I Want to Take You Higher"). Epic Records' version of the tribute album, which included two additional covers ("Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" and "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)") was released in January 2006.


On Sunday, January 14, 2007 Sly made a short guest appearance at a show of The New Family Stone band he supports at the House of Blues.

On April 1, 2007, Stone appeared with the Family Stone at the Flamingo Las Vegas Showroom, after George Wallace's standup act. []

On July 7, 2007 Stone made a short appearance with the Family Stone at the San Jose, CA Summerfest. He sang "Sing a Simple Song" and "If You Want Me to Stay," and walked off stage before the end of "Higher." He wore a baseball cap, dark glasses, a white hooded sweatshirt, baggy pants and gold chains. Stone, who took the stage at about 8:45 p.m., cut the set short, in part, because the promoter was told that the show had to end by 9:00. The band began their set over 90 minutes late reportedly because the stage management was poor and the promoter's band played for 30 minutes longer than scheduled. Sly's 15-minute set came only after his sister, Vet, and the rest of the band performed for 35 minutes. As he exited the stage he told the audience near the front of the stage that he would return. He did return, but only to tell the crowd that the police were shutting down the show. While many blamed Stone for this incident, others believed that the promoter was at fault.

The same scenes were repeated at the Montreux Jazz Festival on the 13th July 2007 with over half the sold-out venue walking out in disgust even earlier than his stage exit.

The same happened again one day later at the Blue Note Records Festival in Ghent, Belgium. Here he left the stage after saying to the audience that "when waking up this morning he realized he was old, and so he needed to take a break now". He did the same again one day later, performing at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

But as the tour progressed, Sly seemed to be more confident and animated, often dancing and engaging the audience. By the time the tour rolled into Paris, things appeared to be improving, and Sly sporting an afro and a headband, performed an energetic and absorbing show, with one his finest performances of "Family Affair." At the Bournemouth gig, Sly performed a feat many of his detractors would not have believed possible. During the performance of "I Want To Take You Higher," he prowled the edge of the stage, and jumped off into the photographers pit, provoking roars of approval. He performed soulful versions of Stand, "I Want To Take You Higher", "Sing A Simple Song", "If You Want Me To Stay", and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", (which at one point morphed into "Thank you For Talkin' To Me Africa", a track rarely performed in public). But the show was marred by sound problems and the vocals were barely audible through much of the show.


Sly Stone was married to Kathleen Silva for five months in 1974. They were wed onstage during a Sly & The Family Stone concert at Madison Square Garden on June 5 before a crowd of over twenty thousand people, and divorced on October 30 after Sly's pit bull Gun attacked their son Sylvester Bubba Ali Stewart Jr. Sly, Silva, and Sly Jr. all appear together on the cover of the 1974 album "Small Talk". Sly also has a daughter, Sylvette Phunne Robinson, with Family Stone member Cynthia Robinson, born at about the same time as Sly Jr.

Sly also has another daughter named Novena Carmel or nickname, Nove (which means the number 9 in Portuguese). She plays the piano, has her own band and also plays with her father's band sometimes while touring.

ee also

*Sly Stone solo discography
*Sly & the Family Stone
*Sly & the Family Stone discography


*Aswad, Jem (Feb 10, 2006). " [ Who, Exactly, Is Sly Stone? (That Weird Guy With The Mohawk At The Grammys)] ". "". Retrieved February 11, 2006.
*Coyle, Jake (Feb 8, 2006). " [ Reclusive Sly Stone Steps Out at Grammys] ". "" Retrieved February 11, 2006.
* Kaliss, Jeff (2008). I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & the Family Stone. New York: Hal Leonard/Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-879-30934-2.
*Lewis, Miles Marshall (2006). There's a Riot Goin' On. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-826-41744-2.
* Selvin, Joel (1998). For the Record: Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History. New York: Quill Publishing. ISBN 0-380-79377-6.
* Edwin & Arno Konings []

External links

* [ Sly's personal website -]
* []
*Yahoo! News: [ After 25 years, Sly Stone speaks out]
* [ Sly Stone, Live in London review by Joe Ambrose]

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