Sly & The Family Stone were an American soul-funk band from San Francisco, Calif., that released eight albums on Epic between 1968 and 1976. The band was formed in 1967 by three siblings from the musical Stewart kin of Denton, Tex: guitarist Freddie Stone, keyboardist/singer Rose Stone, and multi-instrumentalist/frontman Sly Stone. Bassist Larry Graham departed early to front his own funk outfit the Graham Central Station.
Members: Sly Stone (vocals, organ, guitar, bass, harmonica, piano), Cynthia Robinson (trumpet), Greg Errico (drums, 1967-71), Larry Graham (bass, vocals, 1967-72), Freddie Stone (guitar, vocals, 1967-75), Jerry Martini (saxophone, 1967-75), Rose Stone (electric piano, vocals, 1967-75), Vet Stone (backing vocals, 1967-75), Mary McCreary (backing vocals, 1967-75), Elva Mouton (backing vocals, 1967-75), Gerry Gibson (drums, 1971), Pat Rizzo (saxophone, 1971-83), Rusty Allen (bass, vocals, 1972-75), Andy Newmark (drums, 1973-74), Bill Lordan (drums, 1974), Vicki Blackwell (violin, 1974-75), Jim Strassburg (drums, 1974-75)
Sly Stone was born Sylvester Stewart on March 15, 1943, in Denton, Texas, the second of five children in a musical household. As children, Sylvester and his three younger siblings — Rose (b. 1945), Freddie (b. 1947), and Vaetta (b. 1950) — formed the The Stewart Four, which sang gospel with the Church of God in Christ. In 1952, the Four issued the locally pressed 78 rpm single “On the Battlefield” (b/w “Walking in Jesus’ Name”).
Sylvester took up keyboards at age seven. By age 11, he’d also mastered guitar, bass, and drums. In high school, he was part of the doo wop sextet The Viscaynes. They issued two small-label singles in 1961, scoring a regional hit with the Stewart-penned “Yellow Moon.” The group featured a multi-racial and gender-integrated lineup that was rare at the time. This concept of men and women from different backgrounds united as a musical family informed his vision for the Family Stone.
As a solo act, Sylvester cut a pair of 1961/62 singles, the first as Danny (Sly) Stewart, on Luke Record and G&P. Adopting the name Sly, he issued three 1964/65 singles on Autumn Records, where he also wrote and produced singles for garage rockers The Mojo Men and veteran soulster Bobby Freeman, helping the latter score a hit with “C’mon and Swim.” Additionally, Stewart produced Autumn singles for The Beau Brummels and Chosen Few. He also produced the 1964 single “I Taught Him (Part I & II)” for Gloria Scott (& the Tonettes) and co-wrote “Can’t She Tell,” a 1966 a-side by Billy Preston.
In 1966, Sly formed Sly & the Stoners with trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, a family friend. Concurrently, Freddie Stewart formed Freddie & the Stone Souls with drummer Gregg Errico and saxophonist Ronnie Crawford. At the suggestion of incoming saxist Jerry Martini, the two bands merged with Freddie on guitar and Sly on electric organ. The combined band debuted as Sly Brothers and Sisters at the Winchester Cathedral in Redwood, Calif., then changed its name to Sly & the Family Stone. Sly enlisted bassist Larry Graham and integrated Vanetta’s gospel group The Heavenly Tones (with Mary McCreary and Elva Mouton) as the Family Stone’s backing singers. After another Winchester gig, the band signed to CBS Records.
- A Whole New Thing (1967)
- Dance to the Music (1968)
- Life (1968)
- Stand! (1969)
- There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971)
- Fresh (1973)
- Small Talk (1974)
- High on You (1975 • Sly Stone)
- Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back (1976)
- Back on the Right Track (1979)
- Ten Years Too Soon (remixes, 1979)
- Ain’t But the One Way (1982)
- Precious Stone: In the Studio with Sly Stone 1963-1965 (1994 • Sly Stone)
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