follow us in feedly
There’s some doo-wop goin’ on:  Listen to Sly Stone’s racially integrated high school vocal group
10:55 am


Sly Stone

Last week we posted recordings of a nine-year-old Sly Stone performing with his family in a kiddie gospel group—a testament to the Family Stone’s raw talent to be sure. However Sly’s childhood musical ventures weren’t limited to projects of familial kinship. During his teenage years he was active as a singer and in quite a few bands. One was a high school doo-wop group called “The Viscaynes,” a nod to the Chevy Biscayne, with the “V” added in honor of their hometown of Vallejo, California.

As you can see, the group was an early model for Stone’s vision of a racially integrated band. The multi-racial line-up worked in their favor, and The Viscaynes enjoyed quite of a bit of regional success around the Bay Area, getting sent to LA by a small label to re-record their songs professionally, getting some radio play, playing school dances and local TV and doing backup for other groups’ recordings.

The tracks below, “You’ve Forgotten Me,” “Yellow Moon” and “Maybe I’m Wrong” (all from 1961) are just a sampling of a pretty expansive discography. They’re dreamy and yearning, featuring Sylvester Stewart’s voice to great effect, flush with youth.


More early Sly after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Family Affair: Listen to nine-year-old Sly Stone sing gospel with his family & future bandmates
09:14 am


Sly Stone

Rarely does the phrase “children’s Christian rock” evoke anything more positive than a shudder, but Pentecostals often eschew the corniness pervasive to most modern religious music. Pentecostal gospel is the very stuff of rock ‘n’ roll, (hell, one of the churches my grandparents took me to had a Hammond B3 with a Leslie). It’s the sort of musical heritage that you can hear in the very bones of an artist like Sly Stone, whose religious family was encouraged by the church to worship in song.

In 1952, a family gospel group called The Stewart Four did a small, local release of their own 78, featuring “Walking in Jesus’ Name” (below), and “On the Battlefield,” which you can hear on Spotify. The group was made up of siblings Freddie Stewart (age 5), Rose Stewart (age 7), Vaetta (later “Vet”) Stewart (age 2) with little Sylvester Stewart, as always, leading them. (If you’re wondering how a two-year old could contribute to a band, I’ll mention that it’s not uncommon during Pentecostal services to just throw a baby onstage to dance or clap, especially during family performances.) Anyway, this is the family of the Family Stone, performing gospel—beautifully, I might add—as very young children. Sly is nine years old here, and it’s absolutely sublime.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Sly Stone, totally wasted (and totally amazing) on the Dick Cavett Show
11:35 am


Dick Cavett
Sly Stone

Even a lucid Sly Stone is a marked contrast with the as-patrician-as-a-midwesterner-gets raconteur/columnist Dick Cavett. So when Sly and the Family Stone appeared on a 1971 episode of Cavett’s talk show, and Sly did his post-performance interview blitzed out of his fucking skull, high comedy ensued (no pun). After a killer performance of “I Want to Take You Higher” (too easy, not gonna take it), Stone sat down with an unflappable Cavett for some of the most hilariously groggy repartee in television history.

At one point, Cavett asked a left-field seeming question—though in Stone’s state, any question probably could have seemed a non-sequitur—about music theory. Stone was in fact steeped in theory, and nipped the question in the bud (had to) by channeling his old music teacher David Froelich in an utterly jaw-dropping outburst. Sly’s benumbed appearance can be found on the Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons DVD, but you can watch Cavett and Stone hold their own against one another right here, in magnificent fuzzyvision. The first video is the musical performance, the second is the interview.


Legendarily unreliable drug sponge seeks albino backup band, no weirdos
Muhammad Ali and Sly Stone on the Mike Douglas Show 1974
Wear Something Gold: Sly Stone’s 1974 wedding at Madison Square Garden

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Wear Something Gold’: Sly Stone’s 1974 wedding at Madison Square Garden
12:08 pm


Sly Stone
Sly and the Family Stone

Sly Stone and Kathy Silva
Sly Stone and Kathy Silva in their Halston wedding garb
The wedding ceremony of Sly Stone and Kathy Silva at Madison Square Garden on June 5, 1974, is one of the more peculiar pop culture extravaganzas I’m aware of, yet neither YouTube nor Google Images yield very much at all. At the time however, it was considered an event of some significance.
Sly Stone wedding, Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone dedicated a two-page spread to the event, and—this is utterly crazy—the normally staid and upper-middlebrow New Yorker ran a lengthy report (“A Reporter at Large”) by one of their most esteemed writers, George W.S. Trow, that spanned a whopping eleven pages. (Trow’s 1978 report Within the Context of No Context, which was published as a book in 1981, is considered by many to be one of the essential nonfiction accounts of the 1970s—I wasn’t so fond of it.) The title of Trow’s piece was “The Biggest Event This Year”—it has to have been meant at least a little ironically.

One of the astonishing aspects of the wedding was the remarkable rapidity with which it was conceived and planned. The wedding took place on June 5 and, according to Trow, the first inkling of throwing such an event occurred no earlier than May 3. This may in part account for the curious lack of echo the wedding would have. The initial impulse may have been partly romantic, but throwing a wedding at Madison Square Garden is a calculated PR move no matter who’s doing it, and the inescapably commercial nature of the event ... well, induced almost everybody to think of the nuptials in precisely that way. Accounts of the event don’t feel dramatically different from any random night at Studio 54 in the years to come, albeit far more expensive to stage. (Indeed, even Stone himself may have thought of the wedding as a kind of Hail Mary pass for his musical career. In retrospect the wedding was something like Sly’s last hurrah, and the marriage fell apart in 1976.)
New Yorker
Trow’s account focuses almost entirely on the corporate planning that is integral to such an event. Keeping the eye squarely on the unavoidable logistical machinations required, it’s as much about Stone’s handler at Epic Records, a man named Stephen Paley, as anyone else. The article is well written in the usual New Yorker way but almost entirely devoid of drama; we hear about discussions of the “black angel” that Madison Square Garden would not permit to be flown over the ceremony, the necessary expense of security, the possibility of a laser light show display in the colors of gold and pink, the cost of using the Starlight Roof at the Waldorf-Astoria for the reception, the tailoring of the splendid gold outfits by Halston himself, and so on. Sly is acting erratically, missing appointments and so forth, and we hear a whole lot about the vast sums of money he’s spending. Trow signals both the implicit exploitation of a young, vital black artist as well as the possibility of that same artist’s potential decline, but nobody could see then what is apparent now, which is that Sly Stone’s days as a world-class superstar were on the very brink of ending altogether.

In truth, the Rolling Stone account is briefer, less pretentious, and a little bit superior. We get to see a pic of the invitation, which is in script writing and is perfectly traditional:

You are invited to a golden affair,
the wedding of
Kathy Silva
Sly Stone
at Madison Square Garden
on Wednesday night the fifth of June,
followed by the concert of
Sly and the Family Stone.
And to the reception immediately following at
the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf Astoria,
49th Street at Park Avenue.

Kindly respond by Friday, May 31, 1974.
Wear something gold.

Geraldo Rivera, then of ABC “Eyewitness News,” somehow insinuated himself onto the stage during the ceremony, so that he could file a report as “the Eyewitness Usher.” Andy Warhol was there but left right after the ceremony; he, Rivera, Edgar Winter, Mia Farrow, and a host of others would be at the reception.

Bishop B.R. Stewart, the gentleman who officiated the event (according to Rolling Stone a Pentecostal minister from the San Francisco church Sly attended as a child) was apparently not registered at the City Clerk’s office, necessitating Stewart, a Californian, to return to New York and get registered, thus making the marriage official.

via Voices of East Anglia

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Legendarily Unreliable Drug Sponge Seeks Albino Backup Band. No Weirdos.
06:58 am


Sly Stone

I could not possibly add anything to this astounding passage from Alexis Petridis’ recent Guardian interview with funk/soul legend Sly Stone:

“You know what? I’m looking for albino musicians,” he says. “My feeling about it is that it could neutralise all the different racial problems.” At first I think I’ve misheard him, which is remarkably easy to do. At 70, his voice is raspy and slightly slurred, perhaps the result of decades of hard living, or maybe something to do with a bizarre accident some years ago, when he apparently fell off a cliff in Beverly Hills while eating a plate of food: he declined to be treated for the injuries to his neck, a decision that has left him in constant pain unless he hunches over, his chin on his chest. Coupled with a patchy mobile phone signal and a bad transatlantic line, I occasionally lose the thread of what he’s saying entirely. But this time I’ve heard him loud and clear. “To me,” he continues, “albinos are the most legitimate minority group of all. All races have albinos. If we all realise that we’ve all got albinos in our families, it’s going to take away from the ridiculous racial tension, if you’re black or you’re white, blah blah blah. That’s why I’ve been trying to look for albino musicians and organise a group of people that are going to be right. That’s what I’ve been rehearsing for. People will see us, all of us together – a real family, an albino family. People will get happy when they see that! People,” he says firmly, “have got to be happy for that.”

The temptation to make a joke here is powerful, but however much of a head-scratcher that line of thinking is, that the man can go through what he has and still be all about the love is pretty awesome. Albinos or no albinos, I hope he overcomes his saddening Coachella debacle to make one more killer album, however unlikely that seems. Here’s some superb TV footage from his glory days, when it seemed like nothing could derail the “fuck yeah” train.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Cocaine is a helluva drug: Richard Pryor jams with Sly Stone, 1974

When Sly Stone improbably guest-hosted The Mike Douglas Show in 1974, Richard Pryor joined him to jam on the drums for a short, chaotic hash of “If You Want Me to Stay.”

What was the coke budget for this???

I can just see wide-lapelled, mild-mannered nice guy Mike Douglas knocking on the dressing room door before the show to find several of Sly’s armed “security” cronies, a few pounds of cocaine dumped on a table and Sly and Richard both looking like Heath Ledger as The Joker…

“Hi fellas!”


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Family Affair: Sly Stone gets married at Madison Square Garden in front of 21,000 fans, 1974
01:33 pm

Pop Culture

Sly Stone

In George Trow’s marvelously observed New Yorker article from 1974, “The Biggest Event This Year,” the writer tells the tale of Sly Stone’s wedding at Madison Square Garden:

On Friday, May 3rd, in the late afternoon, Sly Stone, the sleek black singer, called the office of Epic Records, his record company, and talked with Stephen Paley, his main man there. During the conversation, Sly announced to Paley that he planned to marry Kathy Silva, a striking young Hawaiian girl, who has been an actress in California, and who is the mother of his eleven-month-old son. Sly said he planned to marry Kathy almost immediately. “I might do it in Hawaii,” he told Paley. “Or I might do it when I come to New York.”

“Why don’t you do it in Madison Square Garden?” Paley asked facetiously. “Before your concert.”

“Yeah,” Sly said. “I could be my own opening act.”

There were over 21,000 fans present on June 4th, 1974 as Sly and his bride took about four minutes to exchange their vows. Soul Train‘s Don Cornelius was the master of ceremonies and Geraldo Rivera was an usher. Edgar Winter, model Penelope Tree, Andy Warhol, Amanda Lear and Diane Von Furstenberg were among the guests. A reception was held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.

Within two years, Kathy Silva would leave Stewart. She later told People magazine:

“He beat me, held me captive and wanted me to be in ménages à trois,” Silva says. “I didn’t want that world of drugs and weirdness.” Still, she remembers, “He’d write me a song or promise to change, and I’d try again. We were always fighting, then getting back together.” After Sly’s dog mauled their son in 1976, however, Silva left.

We all know what happened to Sly… angel dust and cocaine.

Read “The Biggest Event This Year” in The New Yorker’s archive

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Muhammad Ali and Sly Stone on the Mike Douglas Show 1974

In this compelling segment from a 1974 episode of the Mike Douglas show, a fiery Muhammad Ali spars with Sly Stone (stoned) and Congressman Wayne Hays. Theodore Bikel pretty much stays out of the line of fire.

In 1974, Ali was still adhering to the Nation Of Islam play book but a year later converted to Sunni Islam and would eventually become a Sufi.

Hays was drummed out of office two years after this show was filmed in a notorious scandal involving his secretary Elizabeth Ray.

Sly seems to be in a semi-stupor but does manage to get a few cogent licks in.

Ali is unyielding, intense and brilliant, though his comment about Jews plays into the kind of racial stereotyping and discrimination he’s railing against. But it jibes with the Nation Of Islam’s outlook.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment