DJ Le Spam and HistoryMiami Team Up to Save Rare Henry Stone Recordings

“For years, I have helped out Henry Stone, Joe Stone, and others with transfers of rare records,” says Andrew Yeomanson from his City of Progress studio in North Miami. “Once people found out I was running old tape machines, they started to come forward looking for transfers of older recordings.”

Yeomanson, best-known around Miami as DJ Le Spam, is a well-known musician in larger circles, but in the smaller, more intimate ones, he’s better-known as a local and general music historian, a veritable repository of wax gems. He also happens to be an authority on “obsolete” musical technology.

HistoryMiami — a foundation that describes itself as "the premier cultural institution committed to gathering, organizing, preserving, and celebrating Miami’s history as the unique crossroads of the Americas" — is now teaming up with Yeomanson to bring some of Miami's most important musical recordings back to life.

As Miami’s premier institute of local history, HistoryMiami's pairing with Yeomanson to catalog Henry Stone’s collection is a no-brainer. Stone — president of Miami's iconic TK Records — is both loved and hated by musical gourmands, though it's hard to dispute his essential role in forming Miami's early musical identity and sound.

Henry Stone, born Henry David Epstein, came to South Florida in the late ’40s, and his whirlwind approach to labeling and distribution is a textbook example of maximizing returns in the less-than-enlightened early days of the civil rights movement. Stone’s affinity for “race music” and the fact that he aligned himself with luminaries like the recently deceased Clarence Reid and Steve Alaimo is a testament to his business savvy.

Without Stone’s foundation, there would’ve never been as vibrant an Overtown music scene — no Betty Wright, no Gwen McRae, no Blowfly, no Timmy Thomas, no KC and the Sunshine Band, and so many more.

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But those lost days of Magic City soul aren't so lost after all. Yeomanson’s City of Progress Studio received a Knight Foundation grant to digitize unreleased and previously undiscovered magnetic tapes from the Stone archives. And tomorrow at Gramps, Yeomanson will perform a special DJ set while playing some of those rare tapes.

“Joe Stone [Henry Stone's son] came across a box of old tapes from the 1950s belonging to his father,” explains Yeomanson. After initially trying to convert some of those recordings to a newer format, Joe reached out to Yeomanson for help.

“After transferring a few of them on a two-track, quarter-inch head, I figured they were actually probably mono recordings, so I got a deck set up with a mono quarter-inch head, and that sounds amazing. We go straight from the back of the tape machine to the digital converter, very high quality. Way better than using 78 rpm as source material, which is what would exist for most of this stuff prior to the discovery of these tapes.”

If all that technical talk made your head spin, don't worry. All you need to know is that Yeomanson is, essentially, preserving and enhancing these old and rare Stone recordings.

Stone’s output included but was not limited to country, blues, rockabilly, gospel, R&B, soul, funk, disco, rock, jazz, comedy, electro, rap, and bass.

So far, working with Joe Stone has yielded many returns, especially for niche fans of music. “We found many alternate takes and some music that was never released. The Ervin Rouse tape from 1953 was very exciting as there are very few recordings of this important bluegrass fiddle player, and these are pristine.”

This partnership between Yeomanson and HistoryMiami will undoubtedly yield many more deliciously aural returns, and it is good for South Florida and its history that this particular aspect of the story is in capable hands.

“Henry Stone recorded and pressed music and much more," Yeomanson says. "He captured South Florida musical culture in its many forms, giving some artists a platform to the world, and preserved countless moments in time for the rest of us to enjoy.”

HistoryMiami presents DJ Le Spam spinning vintage music from the Henry Stone Archives as “Analogue Archives Part I: The Henry Stone Collection,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, February 24, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-699-2669; gramps.com Admission is free.

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