Little Sister From The Inside Out
Self-released – 144 pages
This book chronicles the efforts of Vet Stone to lead her brother, the troubled musical genius Sly Stone, back to the live stage. Born Vaetta Stewart, the youngest of five siblings, Vet had some hits with the vocal group Little Sister as well as providing backing vocals for the early Sly & the Family Stone recordings, a fact not mentioned in the credits for those records.
The story starts in Texas where K.C. and Alpha Stewart raised their family. Her father was a man who struck fear in the hearts of others before turning to religion, joining the Church of God in Christ. The children sang at services and cut a record as the Stewart Four in the early 1950s. Father K.C. was a tough but fair parent who protected his family with a watchful eye. Vet also details the life-threatening situation that she found herself in as a teenager during the birth of twins coupled with untreated head trauma from a fall out of bed. Her miraculous recovery astounded doctors while giving the family a vivid lesson in the power of faith.
The story picks after the glory days of Sly & the Family Stone, who turned out an impressive chain of hit records. Brother Freddie leaves to become a minister in the Evangelist Temple where his guitar skills are used to make a joyous noise. After years of discussion, Vet gathers many of the original band members in the studio to cut some tracks in the hope getting Sly involved in the project. Her business partner, Skyler Jett, lends a helping hand as they incorporate key elements of Sly’s music into the band’s repertoire. But soon egos and pride start to threaten to derail the plan.
You get a glimpse of the turmoil in two chapters penned by Jett. A singer with over 2,000 records to his credit (a point he makes several times), Jett outlines the effort it took to book the band in order to create a path for Sly’s return to the stage. He does not hold back in holding others accountable for causing rifts or their failure to support the project. Even Sly himself does not escape Jett’s indignation, as witnessed by a letter sent to Sly taking him to task for failing to acknowledge Jett’s efforts on his behalf.
Somehow through all of the drama, Vet eventually does manage to coax her brother back on stage. Their brief tour through Europe is a mixed bag of performances with Sly’s contributions varying from night to night depending on his mood. But the tour is a triumph for sister Vet, fulfilling a promise to her parents to care for her brother. Her faith is tested time & again, yet she stayed focused on the goal.
In the end, even she can’t escape the emotional turmoil that often accompanies fame. Recriminations over expense reports followed by issues with the band drive a wedge between sister & brother. Vet looks back without regret, continuing to pray that her brother will find peace in this life. While not specifically about blues music, this book certainly gives reader’s a look behind the curtain of stardom, a portrait that cries out the lingering question, “What price fame?”