Sly has left the building! Thank you and goodnight.
Here’s the scoop on the Grammys. This was my 7th Grammy Awards show and I have to say it was one of the most bizarre. The first was in 1991 when the band played “Come Together” for a John Lennon tribute and they also grabbed a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal Category for "Janie's Got A Gun" that night.
This time, the whole thing started when Joe got nominated for his Grammy. He was still undecided about going and then the Sly Stone tribute came up. Steven was up for it and it was the start of history in the making. The guys have known Nile Rogers for a while now. Everybody in the band saw him and his band “Chic” perform at the Osaka nightclub, “The Blue Note,” a bunch of years back and that’s when the relationship began. Nile put the Sly tribute performance together. Steven didn’t make the first rehearsal but Joe did. We got to the Staples Center around 7:00pm the Monday before the Grammys (which was on Wednesday). Joe went over his gear with his tech, Jerry Sabatino (who was filling in for Mr. Survis), Jim was in Oakland getting ready for the show. The band ran through the whole tribute segment and then it was time for Sly to come out. The first time when it was time for Sly to come out there was no Sly. His peeps kept saying “he’s coming don’t worry.” The next time they did the run-through everything just clicked. Joss Stone (no relation to Sly) and all the others after her delivered their lines and hit all the right notes on cue and then when it was time for Sly to come out. A guy dress head to toe in camouflage with a hood over his eyes that would make Ted Kaczynski jealous came out and jumped up behind the piano. His chin was in his chest as he sang “Baby, Baby Baby, Wanna take you Higher! The song ends and I said to Jerry, “I think that was Sly,” and he said no, it was a stagehand standing in for him. I didn’t think twice about it until the next run-through - I checked out his boots and they were these monster Ace Frehley type things. There is no way a stagehand was going to wear boots like this and sure enough it was the man himself. I watched him closely the second run-through and he jumped off the piano to his right and moved out to center stage. He then began a little chant with the crowd that consisted of me and about 20 or 30 Grammy producers and sound and lights crew. It blew me away. You could really see that this guy is a legend and has influenced 100’s of artists like Prince and Lenny Kravitz, to name a few. Everybody just stood up with his or her jaws dropped and clapped. In a flash he disappeared into the blackness of the night. Joe felt really comfortable after that rehearsal and was visibly pumped for the show.
The day began pretty early on Wednesday. Hair and make- up at the hotel started at the crack of dawn. Then it was off to Staples Center for a final run through, this time with Steven. The show run-through was going like clockwork. Madonna, U2 and Paul McCartney and then it was time for the Sly tribute. It seemed a little disjointed but not too bad. Steven was nailing his vocals but the band seemed a little out of sync. You have to cut them a little slack because they haven’t played together for about 20 years or so. I was told that Sly had motorcycle accident on his way to rehearsals a week before and was nursing a broken hand and what looked to me as a bad back. Sly did his move to the front again but this time he looked a little uncomfortable going out to the front because of the congested traffic in front of him. The run through ended. Steven and Joe were headed back to their dressing room. They were walking down a long corridor when who should be walking the other way but Sir Paul McCartney. (See the picture, "John B and Steven go over set with Sir Paul!" at left!) The guys stopped and chatted with Paul for at least 30 or 40 minutes. It was surreal. Paul was talking about how he has to save his vocals for Helter Skelter for the end of his set and Steven boasted that Aerosmith does it first. On cue I whipped out Phoenix’s set list and handed it to Steven to confirm. Paul looked the set list up and down and nodded with approval. Holy Shit this isn’t happening. I whipped out my trusty Sharpie and the rest is history! One strange thing that happened that nobody really noticed is when the guys were chatting up Sir Paul, Bruce Springsteen walked by like he was looking for the 8 items or less line at the A&P. He just kind of walked by. Master photographer, Kevin Mazur, took some shots of the gathering and they are up on his website Wireimage.com.
After that Steven had a little time to relax and Joe headed over to the Convention Center to take in the festivies of the pre-telecast awards. He was up against Les Paul. Les couldn’t make the trip out to La La land because he was just admitted to the hospital for pneumonia a few days prior. Joe called Les on Monday at the hospital and Les assured him he was ok and wanted Joe to have fun at his own tribute show the next night. Les got the Grammy over Joe but it didn’t damper Joe’s excitement of being nominated and getting to play with Sly Stone. The guys were in the dressing rooms right next to Sly and posed for pictures with old friend Ross Halfin. He got a couple of shots of the guys with Sly and Nile Rogers before Sly’s manager pulled the plug. Sly had a weird riding Helmut on. Joe and Steven then walked the Green carpet and posed for pictures for the massive press ensemble.
Showtime! It got weird didn’t it?
The band got introduced and now it’s time for Sly comes out looking like a cross between Mad Max and Travis Bickle complete with Mohawk and dark sunglasses. He looked so cool. This guy used to have an Afro from hell and he totally transformed himself. He comes out with the same boots he had on in rehearsal and then when the time came for him to jump down and do his call and response thing with the crowd he just kind of gave a wave and bolted. It looked like he kind of lost his place and didn’t really remember what he was suppose to do. There were still 8 bars of the song left but I guess he figured he did enough and split. After the song was over, Steven and Joe had to bolt right off the stage to some awaiting golf carts to take them directly outside the building into waiting cars to get them to the Burbank Airport. Steven got delayed getting his in ear monitors out and Joe spotted Sly who stopped and thanked him for doing the show. Sly was all smiles and rode off in his own golf cart to the next hole.
The guys then got a police escort out of there and jetted off to Oakland to resume the tour. We landed about 9:30pm and headed straight to the arena and after a quick change of clothes and some vocal warm up the band hit the stage. Right after the show it was back to LA with our heads finally hitting our pillows around 3:30am. It was one of the most unreal days… but they wouldn’t have it any other way and remember folks - as Sly once said, “We gotta all live together as brothers and we’ll all die together as fools.”
See you on the Road!