Under a Sly Stone, There's a Lost Dream
Sixty-three years ago today, Sylvester Stewart was born in Dallas. Or Denton. Probably Denton. Far as I've ever been able to tell, Sylvester's family did live in Dallas, though no one has ever said precisely where or for how long. And how about this for confusing: On this "official" Web site, it says, "The first music Sylvester heard was in the cotton fields of Denton," then mentions the family left Denton in 1943 -- or a year before Sylvester was born. (And, yes, there are some who say it was 1943. But trust me, he was born in 1944.)
Either way, when he was a kid, Sylvester's father, K.C., moved the missus, whose name was Alpha, Sylvester and his brother Freddie and sisters Rose and Vaetta to Vallejo, California, not far from San Francisco. Did a gospel thing for a while. Released a single. Then changed the last name to Stone. Then created funk and influenced pretty much everything after that. That's the short version. There are longer ones. But even most of those don't mention the "lost band" of Sly and the Family Stone: Abaco Dream. Never heard of it? Never heard it? Well, that's what the jump is for.
Amazingly, Abaco Dream released one single at the height of Sly Stone's power and popularity; it was no early-career misstep or late-career toss-off. No, "Life and Death in G&A"/"Cat Woman" was released in 1970 on A&M Records, and, most likely, the use of a different band name had to do with the fact Sly was busting his contract with Columbia Records for some reason. There's a dead-on review of the single on Julian Cope's Web site; "driving, ass-in-the-air power funk," sounds good to me. Fortunately for you, a year back I found a lifted-from-old-vinyl copy of the single online -- I forget where, been a while -- and we're including it down below. It's a little scratchy and a lot hard to find, damn right. Just not today. On Sly Stone's birthday. Play loud. No, louder.
Incidentally, Sly's early, influential albums are getting the remastered-and-re-released treatment on April 10. And in January, he gave an interview to his biographer, Jeff Kaliss, in which Stone said he was working on new material: "I've been writing songs, new songs. Some are on tape, some on paper, and some on tape and paper." In the meantime, here's something totally pointless: You know who's a big Sly Stone fan? Dallas Independent School District attorney Eric Moye, whose review of Dance to the Music can be found here, if you're so interested ("the best that there was back in '68"). Eric, this one's for you. --Robert Wilonsky
Abaco Dream (aka Sly and the Family Stone), "Life and Death in G&A" (released in 1970)