Sylvester Stewart was born into a very musical Dallas, Texas family. That encouragement to perform at such a young age led him to form the Stewart Four quartet with his brothers and sisters. The group would release a few local singles of gospel tracks. By 1964, Slyvester had become Sly Stone, and began work as a San Mateo California rock DJ at KSOL Radio, where he slipped in his favorite rock records from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones into his show. He moonlighted during this period as a record producer for Autumn Records as well, producing a successful hit in Bobby Freeman’s song, C’mon and Swim.
It was in 1966 that Sly’s band, Sly and the Stones, got together with his brother Freddie’s band, Freddie & the Stone Souls, to merge and form Sly and the Family Stone. Since both Sly and Freddie were guitar players, Freddie became the lead guitarist for the band, while Sly taught himself to play the electronic organ. It paid off in 1967 when the band had their first album A Whole New Thing release to critical acclaim under Epic Records.
But the doors blew open for Sly and the Family Stone as a band in 1968 when Dance to the Music reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. And then again in late 1968 with the release of the single Everyday People, which became the band’s first number 1 hit.
The band developed and honed-in on a hit sound that many critics described as “psychedelic soul,” filled with lyrical social commentary in the hit album, Stand! But as the 70s came forward, the sound of the band began to change to a darker and less pop-funk texture with the releases There’s a Riot Goin’ On, and Fresh.
In 1975, the band’s in-fighting and drug use issues came to a head, leading the majority of the band to dissolve their working relationship. Though, Sly was said to continue under the band’s name himself with a rotating cast of members until drug problems of his own forced his retirement in 1987.