Henry Stone, the 92-Year-Old Inventor of Disco, Makes a Booty Bass Record
I slam a 16-ounce can of Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor, take a big hit off a joint of brown weed, put pen to paper, and write a line. "She got a booty, though/She can't fit it through the door," I rap. "Plus, she a stripper now/Working for that booty dough." Then I bark into a microphone, and Jake the Dog is born.
I'm in Hallandale Beach, cutting a four-song EP with Henry Stone, the guy who invented disco, along with his son Joe Louis Stone, who helped pioneer Miami bass, and George "Chocolate" Perry, who played bass guitar for the Bee Gees. The album will be titled Booty Shakin' Time.
Two weeks ago, it was all a dream. Lounging in a penthouse on Grove Isle at Henry Stone Music headquarters, the 92-year-old founder of TK Records watched a guy on a TV talent show perform an original song about "booty." A minute later, he leaned back and remembered his role in making that possible.
"It was around 1975 or '76," Henry recalled. "I was sitting in my office getting ready to put out the third hit single from KC & the Sunshine Band. 'Get Down Tonight' and 'That's the Way I Like It' had gone number one on pop charts around the world and sold millions, and I wanted his next song to do the same.
"So KC played a demo he'd just recorded called 'Shake Your Booty,' and everybody in the room looked around and said, 'That's too risky. You can't put that out.' I said, 'Fuck it, that record's comin' out, man.'
"Four weeks later, it was the number one pop song around the world, and it sold 3 or 4 million copies, just like that — shoof."
It's true that "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" was the first song to use the word booty on the radio. And indeed, it topped the Billboard Hot 100.
"You gotta rememba," Henry said, "booty was considered, like, a dirty word. Everybody outside Miami thought it was a sex thing. It was controversial. Now you can say ass and you can say bitch on the radio. But in the '70s, it was different. Nobody had ever done that before."
Over the next week, I continued heading to Chocolate Perry's studio. Agoraphobia has basically kept Perry indoors for the past two decades. But for almost 40 years, he toured and recorded with some of the biggest acts on the planet. Starting as a session musician with Henry Stone's TK Records empire, he later hit the road with the Bee Gees, Joe Walsh, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. He cut three songs with Michael Jackson. He's the bass player on John Mellencamp's "Jack & Diane."
A few days later in Hallandale, we recorded a dance joint, "Booty Shakin' Time," our title track. Joe Stone stepped to the mike and harmonized with his own prerecorded vocals for the chorus of the song. He did the same thing as a producer for Gucci Crew II on the ghetto-pop classic "Sally That Girl." It was the early '80s, and Disco Rick was asleep on a couch in the studio. He woke up and said, "Yeah, that's a hit." A few years ago, the Black Eyed Peas sampled the song, and everybody got a check.
"Miami bass really started in the studio when we learned how to compress the bass," Joe said. "I remember working with Amos Larkins on 'Ghetto Jump' and Connie's 'Funky Little Beat.' Not to mention I invented L'Trimm and wrote 'Cars With the Boom.' "
As for Jake the Dog, I'd never in my life rapped on a beat into a microphone. So what in hell was Henry thinking when he gave me a record deal? We'd been joking in his office, and I made up some booty rhymes on the spot. "You started rapping, and my ears tell me this could be a hit," he said.
Moments later, he was registering song titles through BMI, signing me up as a songwriter, and booking studio time. I quit drinking after slurring my way through the first day of recording, but I kept smoking through overdubs and mixing. I don't think it helped at all. But what the hell, right?
We've come up with concepts for "Booty 'Round the World," "Shake That B.O.O.T.Y.," and "Bounce That Booty." The bass drops, the lyrics are just stupid enough, and the beats are great. I think we've got ourselves a hit.
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