From 1948 to 2014, Henry Stone ruled the Florida music industry with an iron fist, a wad of cash, and a warehouse full of vinyl.
Whether forming a label with James Brown or racking up as many back to back number-one Billboard pop hits as the Beatles, he made his mark on global culture.
The new documentary about his life and work is called The Record Man, and its world premiere will occur at Miami Dade College's Miami International Film Festival 2015. Here's what director Mark Moormann had to say about making movies, recording history, and the legacy of Henry Stone.
New Times: First off, congratulations; great job.
Thanks! That means a lot, 'cause I know you were hanging with Henry, so it's about capturing that legacy.
What did you learn through the process of making The Record Man?
I learned what it took to be a record man back in the day. How it really worked. And I found it very interesting how Syd Nathan and those guys used to work back then. Henry Stone was a real street hustler, and I think he took that with him through his entire life. At the end of the film, there's a side angle I shot of him at the Miami Art Museum where he's talking about how the 1970s was our sound. Our time. He had a chip on his shoulder. That this is our place. Our town. And that's part of our collective legacy. The whole story of the rise and fall of TK Records and Henry Stone morphed into Gloria and Pitbull and Flo Rida. I learned that Henry Stone's story is the collective story of Miami music history.
Why was it so important to document this history?
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This story wouldn't exist if it hadn't been captured. Making these things [films] is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of effort. Henry always let everyone do their thing. That was the way he worked. Bring in the right people and let them do their thing. It was important to me to let the songs play, let the artists shine. This is great music. These are great bands that stand the test of time. The songs are immediately recognizable, but the artists are virtually unknown. Because of the way that disco went downhill, the artists were forgotten as people, but their music stands the test of time. Music touches people on an emotional level. It really does. And this is the story behind those songs and TK Records and the R&B scene in Miami, and even before that with Henry and James Brown. And that history needed to be captured and told and presented in an entertaining way. For the audience to want to watch it, you have to make a film that plays well.
How do you approach the telling of such a large story where so much has to be left out?
The producers and I talked about the songs that were important and iconic. We chose the songs and the artists and the producers and made a list of songs and characters, and that's what we started with. The first cut was over three hours, and we had to cut it down. I put the film together in chapters by songs and characters. One very important thing was associate producer Larry Warmoth, who was a Hialeah police officer in the 1970s who had a side gig as a photographer. He started hanging around TK Studios and taking photos. TK used to use them in slideshows at conventions. For almost 40 years, he kept these photos organized in an air-conditioned room. Up until we met him, I was nervous that we didn't have enough archival visual material. Without that, you've got a radio show. Finally, Willie Clarke found the guy, and he had all of these great photos of the studio and KC, George McCrae, Gwen McCrae, Rick Finch, and everybody. So through a combination of the songs, the characters, and the visual material is how we did it.
What was the importance of interviews in cars and reenactments?
When you take people to places that had an impact on their life, they can relive it in the now, and they come alive. Henry was an in-the-now kind of guy. He didn't reflect a lot on what he did 35 years ago. He was always looking for the next hit. So getting him to tell a big-picture story took a few sitdowns. And on the last one, he really came clean on a lot of stuff about the Mob and payola and how it really all worked.
Will there be a soundtrack tie-in with Henry Stone Music?
We still gotta deal with all the music licenses and hope to make a soundtrack deal with Joe Stone.
How did you approach the making of the film when the star died in the middle of shooting?
It's painfully disappointing that Henry Stone couldn't be there to get the love and respect he had coming. I make films about people who earn the right to have their story told. He took nothing and made something, and that's worthy of a film. Now his legacy is preserved, and that's the most important thing. That's what he wanted, and I feel good about that.
Who was your favorite interview?
We all fell in love with George McCrae. I met him; we got in the car and drove around West Palm Beach for four hours. He's a beautiful guy. Somebody who really appreciates everything that he has, and that it came through music. We shot a scene with George at the Ebony Motel. We pulled in the parking lot, and there was a drug deal going down. George went and talked to the guys, and we shot the scene, and it was amazing.
What's next for The Record Man?
Do a festival run for the next nine months and then get a distribution deal to go worldwide. We really captured something to be proud of. He started with Ray Charles and James Brown and Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke and Betty Wright and went through these phases of music history that peaked in the 1970s with TK and the birth of disco and went international in a big way. The size and success of the songs and the company are not to be underestimated. TK was the number-one independent in the world.
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The Record Man. Screening as part of Miami Dade College's Miami International Film Festival 2015. Directed by Mark Moormann. 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, at Regal South Beach, 1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-6766; regmovies.com. Tickets cost $13 via miamiff-tickets.com.
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