The Family Stone Keeps Sly’s Legacy Alive

Of the massive number of acts that played Woodstock, many leveraged their appearance to further success. Several acts arguably had career defining moments at Woodstock, exploding from regional notoriety to national stardom. And only a few acts that played Woodstock are still steadily touring. That latter group is small in number and ranges from The Who and Santana on the big stages to Joan Baez and The Family Stone on the more intimate stages.
As to the latter, many folks at the wonderfully intimate Belly Up were hoping the mercurial Sly Stone would pull up on his three wheel motorcycle and join the band that continues his legacy.
But he was a no-show (which was often the case even if he was billed to appear). Nonetheless, The Family Stone did a great job delivering a mind-blowing number of hits.
When originally formed in the late 60s, the band was inter-racial and multi-gender. That was anachronistic for the times, to say the least. But their riveting Woodstock performance in 1969 and string of radio hits shot them stardom.
Two original members remain with the band.  Jerry Martini, aka Papa J, is the original founder of Sly & the Family Stone. He identified Sly and invited him to become the leader of the band. Subsequently, Martini has also performed with countless artists including Mike Bloomfield, Carlos Santana, Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, Robert Cray, Willie Lomax, Prince, Graham Central Station, and Van Morrison. At the Belly Up the other night Martini ably delivered the bright horn parts that define most of the band’s classic songs.
Drummer Greg Errico is the other original founding member and a fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. His blend of jazz, rock, funk is the foundation of the band.
Rounding out the remaining five band members are vocalist Phunne (‘Raw Syl’) Stone, daughter of Sly and founding member Cynthia Robinson, bassist and musical director Blaise Sisson, guitarist Nate Wingfield and keyboardist Alex Davis.
The best line of the evening was when Sisson asserted ‘If you’re not tapping your toes, lie down cuz you’re dead.’
The set list was like an expanded edition of their Greatest Hits album. “You Can Make It If You Try” segued nicely into “Stand.”
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” slowed the groove, with Sisson’s slippery bass weaving underneath. The beat quickly got rubbery with “Dance to the Music.” Other delights included “If You Want Me To Stay,” “M’ Lady” and the heartfelt “Everyday People.”
Sly may be MIA but his spirit blazes via his extended Family Stone.
(photos by Brad Auerbach)

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.