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Interview with Rose Stone and Freddie Stone

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Summary
Interview with Rose Stone and Freddie Stone
Topics
Stone, Fred, Stone, Rose, Rock and Roll, Sly and the Family Stone, Funk
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Transcript

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Interviewer:
I just need you to tell me before anything, what kinds of songs did you sing with Sly when you were part of the Stewart Four?
Stone:
Before we, um, the group Sly and the Family Stone got together, as we were growing up, we had a little church group. There were five of us actually. We called the group the Stewart Four. There were five of us, my older sister, she played piano. And uh, there was Rose, myself, my younger sister Vaetta and of course my brother Sylvester, who, uh, everyone knows as Sly. And so we would do, do something like this. It had a little different flavor then, but it was, it was more or less, this was the way it went. It was a gospel song. We were raised in church as a matter of fact, I don't know if you know that. We were, we were raised in church, and since I was a little baby we were always in church. Mom and Dad, never seen either one of them drink, never heard them curse, never heard any rock 'n' roll in the house. Actually we were just in church all the time.
R Stone:
And they just celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary.
Stone:
Okay, so they've been together, they're just like glue, you know what I'm saying? So anyway, this is one of the songs that we did. It's called "On The Battlefield of my Lord".
Stone:
Something like that, that's what we did, and uh, we did other things like that. And as a matter of fact, Sly, he was singing, I hear my mom and dad talk about it sometimes at four years old, he was, they would take him to great big meetings and he would stand on a table, you know, and he had a thing, my mother told me, if he didn't get an ovation, if they didn't stand up, he'd cry, you know. And you know he was that way. I don't know if he's that way today. I don't think he would start crying. But that's the way he was. And so he was singing a long time and we just got into it.
Interviewer:
There's this really strong church feel in your music. You were telling me sometimes about it would be a hard time to be getting something, and Sly would say, do it like you do in church.
R Stone:
He always said that. Whenever we recorded he would just say, after he had explained whatever it is, and then we, and then we would say, okay, we understand what you mean, he'd always, usually end whatever his explanation of the song was, you know, just do like what you do in church.
Interviewer:
If you could say that one more time.
R Stone:
He always, Sly would always give us the opportunity to do it the way we felt it. And when he would try to explain to us how he felt it should be, well, just do it the way you'd do it in church. So that was just, like, you know, go for it.
Interviewer:
How would you characterize Sly?
Stone:
Um, well, Sly is, um Sly is more or less someone that people know to be, um, Sly. Sylvester is someone else.
R Stone:
That's, we know Sylvester.
Stone:
We know the difference between Sly and Sylvester. And if you were to talk to Sylvester, he likes Sylvester better than he likes Sly. Sly is more or less something that has come about because of, uh, growing, learning, living, pressures, struggles. And the image that you must continue to project the Sylvester, the part that I know, is the person that people need to know. Because he's the real genius. Sly is just someone that, you know, people make up, he made up.
Interviewer:
When I say the song ...
I want to know your guitar influences and where did your style come from. And all that wah-wah that you were doing and ...
Stone:
The style of guitar that I play, ahem, I play it because it's the way I've learned to play it. I didn't have any training as far as the regular training that guitar players have. I was brought up in the church. Uh, my dad played violin, my mother played piano. My dad played kazoo and harp and made a washboard. And my brother played guitar and when I got a certain age I found a guitar in my hand. I just started playing it. Um, we came out with using maybe the wah-wah sound. I went for the sound. It seemed to be a sound that we needed. And so I used the wah-wah because the sound seemed to go with what we were doing. And that's basically how I learned how to play my guitar. I play some things not unlike other guitar players, not saying better or worse, it's just unlike other guitar players. I play it sometimes like a keyboard player would play a keyboard, but that's the I learned and it worked and where I was coming from in church no one was there to say hey that's wrong or that's incorrect or that's good. It's just I had a good time doing it and it works for me.
Interviewer:
What about Jimi Hendrix? Did he have an influence?
Stone:
Now, Jimi Hendrix, this brother, Jimi Hendrix, when I think of Jimi Hendrix I think of like a Larry Graham. When I -- Larry Graham is like, ever since I knew he was fantastic. Ever since I knew Jimi Hendrix, he was just fantastic. And he had no influence on my playing because Jimi Hendrix was so far in my opinion, he was so far out there as far as the gift of playing the guitar, he did things with the guitar that most musicians not only did not do, but do not do today. He was in a class by himself. And so I put him way, I put him far above most guitar players I know. He was just unique. Every once in a while there's someone that comes along, and Jimi Hendrix was one of those like, one of those to come along that's just out of this world so to speak. And so I didn't, I didn't pattern after him. In fact there was no one I could really pattern after, because the way I learned how to play, no one was playing like I was playing.
Interviewer:
Tell me about the funk. Rose you were telling me about how funk really can't be learned. And you all, I mean everybody keeps talking about James Brown as sort of a starting of funk. Where did you all get the funk from?
R Stone:
In my opinion? I think what we do is a God-given thing. And when I say you can't learn it, you can emulate people, you can listen to people, and you can pattern after them. But there's nothing that you already have that's a part of you, that's all, it's, and I think uh, uh, I shouldn't just say our family but there are a lot of people, that's their gift, that's their part in music. Someone else's part might be, nobody can outdo them being classical. And of course they've been trained and all that, but there's something that comes from your soul that you can't emulate. And that's what makes some people emulated, and some people the ones that are emulators, you know what I'm saying.
Interviewer:
Could you play me that, on "Don't Call Me Nigger."
Stone:
I can play a little bit of "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey." But it won't have the same effect because I don't have a wah-wah, you know. You know, it's um, it sounds better with the wah-wah. It sounds different with the wah-wah.
Interviewer:
It's with heavy blues.
Stone:
Oh very, yeah. And you know that, that particular song was really was a very timely song and actually ahead of its time. But right on time. And uh, it helped a lot of people come together. Because for once you could hear something in the song that says "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey." At the same time, in the next verse, "Don't Call Me Whitey, Nigger." In other words, c'mon, let's just come together, let's just do what is right and move on.
R Stone:
Don't put anybody over anybody is all we're saying.
Stone:
Beautiful.
R Stone:
Our group. Uh, I think one reason, the main reason we were so different is because we didn't plan it. We just planned on being ourselves and having a good time with, even when we would go and play for, play different venues, it was never like, let's do a show. It was never anything like that. It was more like, just yell it, just go out there and kick butt. But not in a negative way. Just, let's just really do the best we can. And I think that's why it worked. It was never a plan. It was always just to go do, like Freddie said earlier, just go doing the best you could. And it always worked because we had fun with each other, and that generated into the audience. People can feel what you're feeling up there. They know if you've had a bad day.
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