Miami Music Legend Henry Stone Talks B.B. King's 50-Year History in Miami

We could write a book about Henry Stone's musical contributions. The dude is a legend.

Based in Miami since about 1948, he was good friends with Sam Cooke. He cut some of Ray Charles's earliest recordings out of a little studio on Flagler Street in Downtown Miami. And he personally knew every label head in America from King Records' Syd Nathan to Veejay Records' Ewart Abner to Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun.

Stone also used to hit the road hard as a record-promoting hustleman, getting radio stations to blast his sounds all across these United States.

His first (of many) million-selling record was "Hearts of Stone" by a group called Otis Williams and The Charms on De Luxe Records. It was a black r&b record that extraordinarily reached a mainstream white pop music audience. And back when B.B. King was a DJ out in Memphis, Stone got him to play that record, and they've been friends ever since.

In honor of BB King's upcoming show at the Adrienne Arsht Center, here are a few Henry Stone memories about Blues Boy King.

"My first real experience with BB King was when he was a disc jockey in Memphis in, like, 1950," Stone recalls. I used to go on the road, man, when I used to be a hustler. I was workin' a record called "Hearts of Stone" with The Charms and he played it. He was just one of those nice guys, very terrific guy."

"His manager and I were good friends. We were buddies. He only managed two people, B.B. King and Gladys Knight, and he made them both superstars. He was one of the real high-powered managers out of New York.

"When Miami's own Benny Latimore was hot, he wanted to manage him to open for B.B. on the road."

"[B.B.]'s been coming down here a long time ... I remember he worked The Palms in Hallandale. In the early days, he used to work the Chitlin' Circuit. Every time he came down to Florida, I used to see him."

"I recorded him down here about 15 or 18 years ago, maybe longer, at my studio in Hialeah. He did a whole LP for Universal. It wasn't my label, but I did the session. He cut a Little Beaver song, 'Katie Pearl,' that they never released. I don't know why."

"B.B. always wanted to record with me, down here, in the early years, when he was on Modern Records."

"He's a terrific guy, y'know."

B.B. King. Wednesday, January 4. Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The concert begins at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $49 to $99 via arshtcenter.org. Call 305-949-6722 or visit arshtcenter.org.

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