Introduction to Little Sister
Little Sister is the name of the short-lived R&B vocal harmony trio. It was formed by singer and record producer Sylvester “Sly Stone” Stewart, whose younger sister Vaetta Stewart was the lead vocalist of the group. Little Sister started as a gospel group The Heavenly Tones. Then they backup singers for Sly Stone’s band Sly and the Family Stone as Little Sister. Sly Stone struck a production agreement with Atlantic Records, under which he formed his own label, Stone Flower. Under Stone Flower, Sly Stone released a handful of singles, among them Little Sister’s “You’re The One” (in two parts) and “Somebody’s Watching You.” Both singles made a notch on both Billboard and R&B charts in 1970. But eventually Sly Stone stopped producing records for them for unknown reasons. The group was left with a lack of management, coupled with Sly Stone’s problem with drugs. Little Sister eventually disbanded shortly after during the mid-70s.
Formation of Little Sister (from its early days as The Heavenly Tones)
Little Sister was the name of a short-lived all-female vocal harmony group, best known for its association with Sylvester Stewart aka Sly Stone. The group originally consisted of Stone’s younger sister Vaetta “Vet” Stewart (hence the origin of “little sister”), and her friends Mary McCreary, Elva “Tiny” Mouton and Tramaine Hawkins. They started out as a gospel group during the mid-1960s, while they were still in high school, and named themselves The Heavenly Tones who performed various gigs around San Francisco Bay Area, particularly San Francisco and Oakland. One of the girls’ earliest recordings were the album I Love the Lord (released on Gospel label in 1966) and a 45 single titled “He’s Alright” (for the Music City label, probably in the same year).
Sly Stone formed the Sly and the Family Stone with Sly and Vet’s brother Freddie, and friends Larry Graham, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini and Greg Errico. Around the same time, right after high school the Heavenly Tones were also recruited by Stone. They changed their name (or Sly Stone did) into Little Sister to become Sly and the Family Stone’s background singers. Little Sister’s primary vocalist was, sure enough, Vet Stone. The group was reduced into a trio when Tramaine Hawkins left the group to pursue a solo singing career, which became successful.
The group then went on to perform background vocals on a number of Sly and the Family Stone’s biggest hits during the early days. These hits include “Everyday People” and “Stand!”
Vet and Sly Stone’s siblings Freddie and Rose Stone, as well as Graham and Sly Stone himself, also contributed backing vocals aside from Little Sister’s own contribution.
“You’re the One”
During one of Sly and the Family Stone’s interval period, Stone, meanwhile, struck a production deal with Atlantic Records. This agreement led to the formation of his own label Stone Flower. One of Stone Flower’s artists was Little Sister.
On Stone Flower lable, Little Sister released their first single “You’re the One” (or “You’re the One – Part I,” whose B-side was “You’re the One -Part II”), released in Ferburay 1970. “You’re the One” was written by Sly Stone, and eventually reached the Billboard Top 40 chart, peaking there at #22. It also reached Billboard’s Top Ten R&B singles chart, eventually peaking there at #4.
“Somebody’s Watching You”
Little Sister’s second and final record released later in 1970, and consisted the tracks “Somebody’s Watching You” on the A-side and “Stanga” on the B-side. “Somebody’s Watching You” was Little Sister’s own version of Sly and the Family Stone’s original song, from their Stand! album. The song’s writing crieites belonged to Sly Stone through his real name Sylvester Stewart.
“Somebody’s Watching You” earned a distinction for being the first major record to feature a rhythm track created with a drum machine. You can listen to “Somebody’s Watching You” in this video below:
“Somebody’s Watching You” reached #8 on the Billboard R&B singles chart (in 1971), while the B-side track “Stanga” also made a dent on the R&B charts, peaking at #44 (in 1972). These programmed drums were also used later for the Family Stone’s own massive hit “Family Affair.”
Little Sister’s eventual disbandment
Eventually, Sly Stone stopped producing records for Little Sister for unknown reasons, and the girls were relegated to being background vocalists for the rest of their existence. Mary McCreary left the group in 1972 to start a solo career; she was later replaced by Lucy Hambrick. Little Sister continued to be active as background vocalists until the disbandment of Sly and the Family Stone in 1975 (largely due to Sly Stone’s drug abuse problems), resulting into Little Sister’s own dissolution.