Those upcoming engagements at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill grow ever more intriguing for Sly and the Family Stone fans. For starters, the shows in question, at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on December 7, sold out within a couple of hours, so two new shows have been added, on November 20.
Then there’s the matter of band personnel. When Sly Stone returned to performing this year, as chronicled in my story in the August issue of Vanity Fair, he did so with a band organized by his youngest sister, Vet Stone, with only one original member of the Family Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, behind him. This time, original members Freddie Stone (guitar), Rose Stone (vocals and keyboards), and Jerry Martini (saxophone) are also on board, and it’s entirely possible that original drummer Greg Errico will also join in. (I contacted Errico about this, and he said nothing’s been arranged at this point, but “I really would like to get out and do some playing!”)
That leaves only original bassist Larry Graham out of the picture. (Yes, this all sounds obsessive, but I like to think of this as an example of benign Rock Snobbery.) Graham, of all the original members, had the most fraught relationship with Sly, and also the most success on his own, as the frontman of the delightfully named funk band Graham Central Station. Graham is now a devout, cheerful Jehovah’s Witness who lives on Prince’s Paisley Park compound in Minnesota, and when I spoke to him earlier this year, he went out of his way to speak magnanimously of Sly and argue that tales of their enmity were overblown. That said, when I brought up the idea of his returning to the Family Stone fold, Graham seemed unenthusiastic, telling me, “I’ve been leading my own band for 35 years now, and it might be hard to enter a situation where someone else is the leader.”
Still, it’s shocking enough that Sly has emerged from seclusion, survived a difficult European summer tour, and scheduled two rounds of dates in New York, so anything’s possible...