Get ready for some hot fun in the summertime.
Comprised of two original Sly and the Family Stone members, saxophonist Jerry Martini and drummer Greg Errico, and Sly’s daughter Phunne, the Family Stone will deliver the funk, soul and rock ’60s music fans thrilled to in such songs as “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Family Affair,” “Everyday People” and “I Want to Take You Higher.”
Sly and the Family Stone was a band from San Francisco that was active from 1966 to 1983. It was the first American rock group to have a racially integrated, male and female lineup.
Sly’s view of the world is expressed in the lyrics of his song “Are You Ready?”: “Don’t hate the black, don’t hate the white. If you get bit, just hate the bite. Make sure your heart is beatin’ right.”
“It was during a time of racial stress,” Martini says, noting he once asked Sly why he had chosen him for the band when there were many black saxophonists who could play better than him. “He just said I was the right person. We had the only black female trumpet player too. It was a musical Renaissance period then.”
Martini met Sly when the saxophonist was in another band and Sly was a DJ, who once sang his entire four-hour shift – news and all. He calls Sly a visionary, who was ahead of his time and has written superb songs the public will likely never hear.
“The first album we did was a failure because the general public was used to hearing more structured music – a Motown drum beat and specific harmonies. They were conditioned by the record companies.”
But Sly led the way with hits that have been covered by many major artists and helped shape the music of such future stars as Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince, The Jackson 5, Miles Davis, Maroon 5, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, Madonna and many more.
Due to issues with drugs, Sly effectively retired from performing in 1987 and in 2003, Martini and Errico formed the Family Stone, a tight-knit band that since 2015 has included Sly’s daughter Phunne Stone on vocals.
“She has all the merits of her own father and mother, she’s very talented,” says Martini. “I know the people will love us; it’s family music, for the people.”
Martini’s cousin Errico agrees.
The original drummer left the band in 1971 due to drug and interpersonal problems among other band members.
Errico forged ahead with his own career, joining the David Bowie band for his Diamond Dogs 1974 tour of the U.S. and later collaborating with bands such as Santana and the Grateful Dead. In the early 1980s, he was the drummer of the Jerry Garcia Band. He also worked with Larry Graham from Sly & The Family Stone, plus members of the Tower of Power horns, Journey and the Pointer Sisters on an album for Betty Davis.
“That’s where I started back in 1966… natural thing to come back to, it feels great,” he says of his return to The Family Stone. “The ingredient and chemistry is great right now; we show up, people have a good time, we have a good time, it just works. There’s a lot of value, depth and feeling and people really appreciate it.”
While they’ll play the familiar tunes, Errico says the musicians constantly play with arrangements.
“We have fun with it, we challenge it a bit in a way that everyone is connected to,” he says.
Her dad’s second child of three and her talented mother’s second child of two, Phunne Stone laughingly says she’s been singing, acting and acting the fool since she came out the womb.
“Everybody on my father’s side does something musically, it’s just something that we do,” she says. “I’ve been with the band three years now. They’re excellent musicians and I’ve learned so much. They’ve been there for me through a lot of rough patches.”
Phunne says her father continues to write and has about 300 songs he’s going over yet again.
“He’s 74-years-old and he can’t stop writing; he can be sitting down eating and a line will come to him and he’ll write it down on a napkin.”
She does not think Sly will ever perform again. She says she gets the sense he has done it so many times and been to so many places he’s just tired.
“But he’s so unorthodox you never know what he’s gonna do,” she laughs, noting that when The Family Stone’s current tour is over, she will be going into the studio to work on a new project.
In the meantime, like Martini and Errico, Phunne is looking forward to appearing at the Roots and Blues Festival that runs Aug. 16 to 19 at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds.
The Family Stone will close the main stage on Saturday night and will perform in a workshop with the Boom Booms on Saturday afternoon.
For more information for or tickets to the festival, go to www.rootsandblues.ca.