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
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
And they just celebrated their 61st
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
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.
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
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.
If you could say that one
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.
How would you characterize Sly?
Um, well, Sly is, um Sly is more or less someone that people know
to be, um, Sly. Sylvester is someone else.
That's, we know Sylvester.
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
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 ...
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.
What about Jimi Hendrix? Did he have an influence?
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
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?
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.
Could you play me that, on
"Don't Call Me Nigger."
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
It's with heavy blues.
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.
Don't put anybody over
anybody is all we're saying.
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.