Sly and the Family Stone drummer Greg Errico remembers the legendary Fillmore East sets
In October 1968, Sly and the Family Stone put on four shows in East Village’s Fillmore to frenzied crowds. Having recorded the shows, their label, Epic, was quite pleased with the results and planned to release them. Then…nothing. Over forty-five years later, the shelved shows in their entirety finally found their way to market as Live at the Fillmore East – October 4th & 5th, 1968. Greg Errico, who manned the drums those nights and many others for the band, ponders, “I’ve often wondered over the past thirty years why a live album of the original Sly and the Family Stone has never been released.” He continues the thought, “I had copies of the recordings from about a week after they were done. I kept hearing things that the label was going to release the live show, but they never did!”
One theory revolves around how big “Everyday People” became. At the end of November, it stormed Billboard’s pop chart and made it to number one. Just before Christmas, it started doing the same on the R&B chart. That song still stands as their longest tenured song on the pop chart. Perhaps if the song would have been performed that night, there could have been a tie-in to help the live set see the light of day, but that’s merely conjecture.
Bill Graham, from the famed Fillmore, was quite familiar with the band, as they had performed previously at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, as well as at Winterland. Errico also remembers performing at the Electric Circus on Eighth Street in New York City, not far from the Fillmore East. For seven dollars, your ticket was punched. The band put on two shows each night—although that was a far cry from the six to eight thirty-minute shows they’d put on in Las Vegas earlier in their careers. If you wanted to attend each show on a given night at the Fillmore, you had to buy separate tickets.
“The Fillmore East was a powerful room, although it wasn’t necessarily that large. It was an old theater with a powerful vibe, both the room and the audience. If you had their attention, you felt it!” Errico proudly remembers. The Fillmore shows followed a less-than-successful U.K. trip, but the band was confident in its material and its ability to put on live sets. “The music was too powerful for something like that [U.K. trip] to put a wrinkle in it,” he says.
Their resolve shows in the hours of performances presented on Live at the Fillmore East. From tracks like the well-known “Dance to the Music” to the funky “Color Me True,” they indeed were exhilarating. Errico describes his tenure with the band as challenging, inspiring, and rewarding. Fitting emotions given that those are some of the same emotions that music fans have been feeling for nearly fifty years from this groundbreaking and legendary band.
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