By Chris M. Junior
August 1969 was a memorable month for Sly and the Family Stone.
Not only did the seven-piece group perform a scorching early morning set Aug. 17 at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in upstate New York, but the band’s single “Hot Fun in the Summertime” first hit the Billboard Hot 100 in the magazine’s Aug. 9 issue.
Odd but true: Sly and company didn’t perform that song at Woodstock. (Nevertheless, ‘Hot Fun’ still managed to do OK on the pop-singles chart, peaking at No. 2 for two weeks.)
But after Woodstock, says saxophonist Jerry Martini, “our band played it at every concert because it goes over in the summertime and the wintertime.”
Prior to “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” Martini says a change had occurred in the way the band went about its business during recording sessions.
“In the beginning, we were all in the studio at the same time,” recalls Martini. “But by [the time we did ‘Hot Fun’], the horns came in last. After everything else was done, Sly would bring [trumpeter] Cynthia [Robinson] and me in to do the horn lines.
“Sly looked at everything like a puzzle,” Martini adds. “The horn lines never got in the way like a lot of [other R&B and rock bands]. They just wrote out horn-section lines without really considering whether they were bumping into something else. When Sly put horn lines on stuff, he made sure they fit in the song like a piece of a puzzle.”
Martini, along with Robinson and drummer Greg Errico, continue to uphold the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band’s legacy as the leaders of The Family Stone.
“We’re not a tribute band because we have three original members,” Martini explains. “When you see us, you get as close as you can get to the original band.”
Upcoming Family Stone tour dates include Aug. 18 in Long Beach, Calif.; Aug. 25 in Akron, Ohio; and Aug. 31 in Virginia Beach, Va.