Music News

RIP Henry Stone, King of Independent Records, Dead at 93

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He recorded the original version of "The Twist" with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters in the North Miami Armory with Mac Emmerman engineering. It was to be a slow number, but Stone suggested to guitar player Cal Green as he was tuning up that it be recorded as a dance record. Later, when Chubby Checker played a teen dance he booked him for in Miami, Stone suggested Chubby Checker cover it.

He was a poker player at the round table of a jukebox convention alongside other early industry heavyweights like Hy Weiss, Don Robey, Leonard Chess, Ewart Abner, and George Goldner when they decided to form their own manufacturers and distributor's convention. They called the group ARMADA, it still exists today (under a different name).

He helped smuggle Jerry Wexler out of a tense situation with the black mafia at an infamous Miami record convention where they aimed to retake control of contracts for black artists.

Aretha Franklin used to fly down to Miami and cry her heart out over his piano.

Stone's group FOXY were one of the first Latino bands to break mainstream in America.

Florida was only a 2% market for American record sales, so when he knew he had a national hit, he would order extra from the manufacturers, and send them to Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Detroit, and Chicago, where he had contacts to sell them for him. He called this technique trans-shipping, and it allowed him to sell at 15% rate of market share. Whereas on a million selling record he should have sold 20,000 records by staying in his region of Florida, he'd sell 150,000. This angered some, but he was so well respected and connected there was nothing anyone could do about it. He was just too good at it.

Stone's specialty in R&B records, and trans-shipping technique fed crucial vinyl into the hands of the earliest underground gay/black/hispanic dance clubs in Chicago, New York City, and Detroit, thus helping him found the disco movement even before it had a name.

He drank, smoked and partied with Elvis Presley. He invented payola. He ruled the Billboard pop and R&B charts, tying the Beatles with his KC & The Sunhine Band hit streak of five #1's in a row. He recorded Ray Charles before he was Ray Charles, and then told Atlantic Records where to find him when they wanted to sign him.

He put up the original seed money for the founding of Sugar Hill Records by Joe and Sylvia Robinson, and then sold his stake to Morris Levy when he decided to take over. He pressed early hip-hop records by Spoonie G, the Treacherous 3, and Grandmaster Flash at his own pressing plant in Hialeah, Florida.

He had two of his artists on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album, KC & The Sunshine Band with "Boogie Shoes," and Ralph MacDonald with "Calypso Breakdown."

He first met James Brown in 1955 when King Record's Syd Nathan pit Henry in a race against Ralph Bass to get to Macon, Georgia and sign Brown to a recording contract based on an acetate for the song "Please, Please, Please." Bass beat him there by a day, but James and Henry became friends for life anyway.

He released the first 12" record to sell over a million copies, Peter Brown's "Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me?"

He was the first record exec to break a group out of the Bahamas. That band was Beginning Of The End with the song "Funky Nassau"

One time when his mobbed up buddy Morris Levy tried to include gangsters into Stone's organization, Henry quickly said, "Gee, I'd love to Moishe, but the IRS are coming now to look at my books...." Morris hung up immediately and never brought it up again.

He and Steve Alaimo signed Sam & Dave to a recording contract with Alston Records, and then got them a deal with Roulette Records. They didn't create any hits, but Ahmet Ertegun caught their act at the King Of Hearts Club in Liberty City and decided to make an offer. Stone thought it was a great idea, but suggested to Jerry Wexler that they be recorded at STAX in Memphis by a couple of young producers named Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

Isaac Hayes introduced Stone to his "Hot Buttered Soul Album," by having him sit in a big recliner in Memphis and putting a pair of headphones on him while he relaxed and enjoyed it.

Duane and Gregg Allman slept in their van in Stone's studio parking lot while they recorded there as the 31st of February well before becoming the Allman Brothers Band.

Tom Petty spent time there recording with his band Mudcrutch before he ever had the Heartbreakers.

He once planned to host a Black Woodstock on an island in The Bahamas before a politican screwed up the deal and absconded with the money.

He began workin with Betty Wright when she was only 13 years old. She became a million seller with Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke penned tune "Cleanup Woman," with an unforgettable guitar hook by Little Beaver.

He broke Latimore's "Stormy Monday" so big in Chicago that it was on every South Side jukebox on repeat for months.

He shaped the career of Steve Alaimo, a former teen crooner who became his VP at TK.

He had a bodyguard named Rico who always carried a pistol.

He had a carphone while most people were still dialing on rotary telephones in their houses and offices.

He brokered the deal for James Brown to get a private jet to renew his contract with Polygram records.

Jaco Pastroius used to hang out at his studio just to watch Little Beaver play guitar.

See Also: Disco Legend Henry Stone and HistoryMiami Museum Team For New Collection

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Jacob Katel
Contact: Jacob Katel