Jul 032015

“I had a warehouse big as a football field. It was my distributing place. I had millions, hundreds of thousands of records in there, man, cause I represented every line. I had to carry inventory on all these lines.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this in the story, I dont know if it means anything to you but it should, but a good part of my career down here in Florida has been, I distributed every independent label like Atlantic and Warner Brothers and all those labels Scepter, Wand, everything, every big and little indie label that could make a hit yknow. Are you familiar with that? The distribution that I had down there, Tone Distributing

Usually the guy that owned the record label would contact me. I was the distributor here. I was one of 30 some odd independent distributors around the country. I was one of em. I was the only one here in Florida. The only one that counted. Every once in a while somebody would try to start up and then boom. Couldn’t compete. So basically, but then ya had, 29 other guys independent like NY had 2 cause it was a big city state, Chicago had a couple. Philadelphia had a couple, Some of the small cities had one like Cincinnati had one. New Orleans, Dallas, yknow whateva but there was 30 of us basically. You put a record out, an independent guy from New York or LA or New Orleans or Chicago and you automatically send the record to us 30 distributors and we’d sell the record. That was the, we had the…most of us were like me, they had the radio tied up in their area yknow, with the disc jockeys, so that was it, it was like a thing that this was the way it was with the independent distribution.

That’s a whole thing if you’re talking about a complete story of Miami, Cause that was a  very important part of the history of Miami, was the distribution here in Florida with all the independents, cause the majors had nothing during the 60s and 70s,,,,till Michael Jackson got hot let’s say in the 80s

That was a real important pat of the record industry.

We were a buncha young guys. But mostly records. Really really into the music bidness. You could feel it. We did a lot of work and distribution. And my Tone Distribution grew to be huge.”


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Jul 022015

“I used to go out on the road and sell records all through Wildwood, Florida, and Tampa, and all through Jacksonville. Once in a while I’d go through Tallahassee….very rarely though. The panhandle I never went too much. I’d go as far north as Jacksonville basically and through Ocala and down Gainesville, Tampa, and West Palm, Broward, Hallandale, Opa Locka, Miami, South Miami, Goulds, Perrine, yaknow, all the way south to the Florida Keys.

We’re talkin early days. Late 1940’s. 1950s.

Every third week or so. When I got new product basically. It’s all about the product. That change. The product. The newest black indie records. They needed it. The juke box operators neeeded product to put on those juke boxes yaknow.

I was the cat that had it, man, so they would wait for me to come around. I’d carry the stuff in my car. Or sometimes I’d just have the samples. The sample of a record and ship it. On a record. Regular 78rpm. It was before the 45s. On a 78. I’d say hey man send me 50 of those, I need 50 or a 100.

I’d carry my samples and take em’ around to play for the next cat. I’d take an order from each customer and when I’d get back to Miami I’d ship it to em’. I’d say, “Listen to this new Amos Millburn, listen to this new Lonnie Johnson, Wynonie Harris, Bullmoose Jackson, Louis Jordan, Dinah Washington. Any new labels that I had, any new artist. I’d play the sample from each of them to each of the jukebox operators.

And how many copies they bought all depended how big their route was. Like the one guy in Tampa,he had a route of about 200 machines. I used to order 200 of a record for him. I dont remember too many of those old names from out of town. He was just a cracker guy, real nice guy, real terrific guy. It was good for him too cause I used to get the hit records though man.

I was all through the state, man, hustlin’ records. That’s when I was building my distribution company. And in the 60s I built it into a big distribution company. Big time.”


©HenryStoneMusic Inc

Jul 012015

“Whenever I needed some extra cash I’d take crummy records, smash em’, and file a damaged goods shipping claim. I’d grab a hammer and break em’ right when there in my distribution warehouse. Like, say, when we used to receive 78rpm records by truck. Let’s say you receive a stiff record that wasnt selling at all and is just laying in the warehouse. Ya take the little hammer and chh, chh, chh, give it a little crack, and then you’d say the shipping got damaged and you put a claim in for it and they pay you whatevr the wholesale price was. You had to do that to survive man. And they’d pay ya for it. Wholesale. Whatever the wholesale price was, they’d cut ya a check for the loss. Little tricks, survival tricks. Call em survival tricks.”

Jun 302015

“I’ll never forget when I was distributing Motown. They sent a new record down to me to test,  and I put it on the air down here with my cronies on the radio, and the record busted wide open, man. And it wasn’t one of the big ones, the Temptations, or Stevie Wonder. It wasn’t a big artist. It was a secondary artist.

But I knew it was a hit so I ordered 13,000 records. Ten thousand to sell and three thousand for promotions. And Barney Ales, who was the president of Motown at the time called me and said,

“Henry, I ain’t gonna ship you this record you fuckin idiot this record ain’t hot anywhere!”

But see, I had a reputation of being a trans-shipper too. A trans-shipping distributor. Florida was my official territory, which was considered a two point market nationwide. If a label sold 100,000 records nationally, I was supposed to sell 2,000. But because I worked my connections around the country, I would end up selling 10,000 or more records. I became a one-man 10 to 15 percent market on black records, because I shipped em’ all over: to New York, and Philly, and Chicago, wherever, I had contacts everywhere. DJ’s and promoters and mom and pop shops and sub-distributors that I could use to get songs on the air, into the stores, and dollars in my pocket.

So I got that transhipping reputation. Of course the other distributors hated me, but they got to learn how to live with it. But the manufacturers loved me, cause I would break all these records. And the artists loved me too. I would get calls from them all the time cause they knew what I was doing too.

So it got to be know that when Henry Stone ordered 13,000 records, they knew they had a national hit.

I remember calling Bob Keen in California. He had his Keen Records label. I said, “Bob, I need 10,000 of that new record. Really 13,000, I need 3,000 for myself.”

He said, “Really? What’re you gonna do with em’.”

I said, “Bob, I’m gonna sell the motherfuckers.” And that was Saqm Cooke’s “You Send Me.”

I was a big distributor and I had a good living as a distributor, but I still loved making records. Instead of playing golf, I made records. I was a 24-7 guy. That’s what I did.”

Jun 292015

“When I was out in California starting in the music business after WWII, I had a gimmick when I was trying to get the records around out there. I made a thing called the Indie Index.

I was out selling records and people would say, “Well who the hell is so and so anyway? Who are these people? Where do we get the records?”

And I would give them the Indie Index which listed the artists and the labels. People didn’t know anything back then. It was so new. There was no radio for independent black music. It was all done through the jukeboxes.

So when I moved down to Miami, I brought the indie index with me, took it to a print shop and figured I’d continue my venture like that.

But as I went down to get my driver’s license at the courthouse on Flagler, I was walking up the steps and I heard someone screaming my name,

“Henry Stone, hey, Henry Stone!”

I turned around and this was an old buddy of mine from California that I knew very well.

He said, “Look I got about 10,000 records I shipped down here by train,”

In those days you either shipped by train or by boat, that was the mode of transportation

He said, “I just got beat on a deal. But if you pick up these records and sell em for me, I know you’re gonna pay me cause I know your reputation.”

I said, “Great!”

So I picked up the 10,000 records and thats how i started in the distribution business here in Florida

Now in those 10,000 records there was several thousand copies of one called “Open The Door Richard, ” by Jack McVea, and I ended up with a hit record on my hands in 1948, and I sold em.

There were no record stores in Miami in 1948. No record stores.

You ever hear of Philpitt’s. That was music store that had a little section where they sold a few records yknow? But they weren’t gonna buy 10,000 off me. They probably sold a few a week.

So I sold most of those records to Juke Box operators, they put the boxes in the black whorehouses and stuff like that

That’s how I really started in the distribution business”

Jun 262015

End Records was partially Morris Levy’s label. END. It was between him and George Goldner. Goldner was quite a character. He’s the one that really put Morris in the business. George was the one that had “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.” Plus he had a lot of pretty big songs on top of that with his END and Gone record labels to name a couple.

George was a real character. I remember when he was married to this Latin chick. Mona. She used to chase him all over the country. She used to chase him at the conventions, knock on every door and say,

“Is George in here?! Motherfucker. I know he’s screwing around.”

Maybe he was at the bar havin a drink who knows. But anyway George, he and I were very cool, but he had his rules. Number one, he wouldn’t fly. So he used to make me get on the train with him and go to New York and we’d sit and play gin rummy the whole time. From Miami to New York. That’s the only time I went on a train. Actually, when I was in the army I went on a train.

Morris Levy wouldn’t fly either. Fear of flying. Morris used to drive to California in fact. George had these labels hooked up with Morris cause George used to be a huge gambler and used to go broke all the time and always needed money. He and Hymie Weiss from Old Towne Records used to go to the harness tracks in New York.

And when George was in Miami we’d take him to the track all the time. Tropical Park was it? Steve Alaimo and I took him to the track.

I’ll never forget one time when took him to the track. We were there at the track just goofin around, winning and losin ya know. And George musta blown $20,000 dollars. Cause that’s the way he used to bet. I used to bet ten dollas, twenty dollas yaknow. So George is tapped out, so he goes to Steve, the last fifty dollas that Steve Alaimo has, and he says,

“Steve lend me fifty dollas.”

Steve says, “Whattaya crazy man? ya gonna blow it. That’s hot dog money and to get home.”

But George was so convincing that Steve gave him the fifty bucks and George put it on a trifecta, the last race or somethin, Baboom. It came in. And God knows how many thousands of dollars he hit on that trifecta. George was a weird cat, man, funny cat.

Jun 252015

“I used to work along with Henry Glover a lot. He was great, he was really experienced, and I was like learning from him yknow. He was a good teacher, Henry. Real nice guy, real terrific. Educated. Terrific musician. And he used to do all this A&R work for King and had all these hit records with Bullmoose Jackson,  Wynonie Harris, Earl Bostic. Big time yknow.

So when I was in Cincinatti visiting King, he’d be doin’ a session, and I’d be right there sittin in there with him. And I’ll never forget one particular situation. It was my idea a little bit. Kinda a combination. I can’t take all the credit, well we were in a studio recording, and the group was Tiny Bradshaw’s, a good band. Tiny Bradshaw was one of those good like likeable Bullmoose Jackson types of the time, in that category, and Henry Glover was recording him. And I was there maybe setting the mic up, doin’ something yknow what I mean? Just learning what Henry was doin cause he was so good. So we’re recording this record called “Soft” by Tiny Bradshaw.

In those days, they used to take the drummer and….Setups used to be the drummer was in the corner with a thing to keep em isolated yknow, they still do that occasionally too, even though things have changed because of electronics and everything. So we’re cutting this record and I said to Henry “Why don’t we take the microphone and put it on the drums, get a real shhhh, cause it was a brush thing the drummer was using, which would get lost on the regular mix. It fit perfect cause that’s the name of the, “Soft.”

I’ll never forget Syd Nathan comes in the studio and say,

“What The Fuck are you guys doing, you’re gonna ruin my microphones, whattaya doin?”

So I said, “We’re comin’ up with a new idea, man.”

And that was a little incident that happened with Henry Glover on King Records.

Jun 242015

James Brown on the ABC television program Music Scene. 1969 (wikimedia commons)

“Jerry Wexler’s son’s in the music business. I hear about him every once in a while. He was a producer in the bidness yaknow. So here’s a story: The guy from Island Records, Chris Blackwell wanted to sign James Brown and record him. So he got a contract on James, and sent him on down to Nassau to record with that group there, that great rhythm section in Nassau at the studio there. And he hired Paul Wexler, when he was pretty young, to produce the session yaknow. So bout 2 or 3 days later I get a frantic call from Jerry Wexler,

“Henry! Help. Help.”

I say, “What’s the problem man?”

He says James is crucifying my kid man, help!”

He says, “Please call James Brown and tell him to back off. That’s my kid yaknow.”

But you know who the only white man ever allowed in the studio with James Brown was? Me. Henry Stone. But that’s where I belonged.

James ended up throwing Paul out of the studio by the scruff of his neck and sending him back to New York.

James said, “I’ll do my own session man!”

He always knew what he wanted. That’s what he did.

Jun 232015
bill wardlow

Bill Wardlow in BILLBOARD Magazine 1975

“A real situation I had with Billboard is this. I was very tight with Billboard Magazine in the disco era because the editor was Bill Wardlow. He was the cat in charge of the POP charts for Billboard and he was a big disco freak.

That’s why in the 70s when he was the head of that whole department there a lot of the disco records made the charts . This is before they were considered so called disco trash, whatever they wanted to call it.

But all my stuff went to the charts.

I remember one time I had a record with KC and The Sunshine Band. This was about the 3rd or 4th number one hit I had with KC and….it coulda been “Shake Your Booty.” I’m not quite sure which one, but it was shooting up the charts, all legitimate too, even though I was very close with Bill Wardlow.

Anyway the record went to number 2 and it was goin up and on its way to number 1, and just like in a horse race comin from way behind, zoomin up the charts was “You Light Up My Life,” by Pat Boone’s daughter.

Bill says, “Henry what am I gonna do? I gotta make this record number one.”

I said, “Man, you gotta put me number one. Then you can put that one number one.”

But I says, “Man, you gotta give me that number one slot cause I’ve had 4 number one slots in a row with KC, like the Beatles y’know. I want my number 5 slot.”

So Bill said, “For you Henry I’ll do it.”

And then later on I gave him a down payment for a home he bought in Palm Springs.

So that’s how tight I was with Bill Wardlow.

Jun 222015

While I was on the road I ended up in Tampa one day. I ended up in Tampa, Florida, and uh a juke box operator, a guy by the name of Junior, a Jewish guy……Tampa was like a winter carnival headquarters,,,all the carnies used to come and hang out in Tampa. So Junior invited me for dinner one night, “You look like a nice jewish boy on the road, come over, I’ll make ya a nice meal.”

I said, “Great.”

He said “Do ya mind if I invite someone else?”

I say “No, sure, it’s your house, invite whoever you want.” So he invited a guy by the name of Tom, so were sittin talking, guy ended up being Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager, 50% manager. He says, “Hey you look like a hustler, like a nice young guy. …” He had an artist before Elvis Presley, called Eddie Arnold who was the number one country artist in the country and he managed him, he says, “I’m workin’ dates with this guy and I’m gettin’ beat out from some of these promoters, you look like a cool guy,,,I’ll give you five dates in Florida, see what you can do. ”

I was hustlin’. Ready to try anything. So I got a hold of my friend Manny Brookmeyer in Miami. I said, “Hey, I got this deal, you wanna go in with me?”

He says “Sure.”

So I booked 5 dates: Daytona, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville….whatever. Five dates in Florida. I hooked up a deal with Purina Chow, they could put up all the signs in the arenas and they gave me all this free advertising, radio, and I sold out in every place and I paid Tom Parker and he says, “Wow! All my money. You’re unbelievable.” He says, “How would you like to take Eddie Arnold all over the country? I’ll give you the dates all over the country.”

I say “The only problem I have right now Tom is I just started my own little distribution company in Florida, and I don’t wanna blow it ya know, so I’m gonna have to give up the deal.”

So meanwhile a couple months later in Variety magazine where they post the dates on who made the money or whatever, he made millions and ,millions of dollars all over the country yknow, but hey these things happen.

So then later on, about 5 years later when he became a big man, he was down here with Elvis at the Olympia theater and I got a phone call, he says, “Henry I didn’t forget about ya man.” And he called me up and says “C over I want you to meet Elvis and his guys.” So I spent the whole night with Elvis Presley and his crew, smokin and drinkin and whatever we were doin, havin a ball.

Jun 182015

“One time when I was in Cincinnati, I was at the Manse Hotel. That’s the black hotel I used to stay at. I used to go there a lot cause that’s where they had the recording studios, and thats where I had my DeLuxe Label, out of Cincinnati with King Records.

So John Lee Hooker was at the hotel and John used to record for everybody, for ten different labels, not at the same time, but different times through the years. When he’d need some money he’d go cut sides, just like Ray Charles, when he needed money.

I took him to the studio and I cut a whole LP with him. In fact I wonder, I put it back out on Atco. And one of the songs that he did…I did’nt know, I sort of picked up when I was talkin’ to him that he stuttered, he says, “H-h-h-h-henry w-w-w-w-w-when ww-w–we g-g-g-gonna do a s-s-s-session?” So when I was recording I says ey John why don’t you cut a song called “Stuttering Blues.” And he said “W-w-w–w-ell I l-l-l-l-love ya baby, i l-l-l-l-love ya baby.” The record’s out there, you can pick it up. It should be on the internet.

Recorded that in Cincinnati in the King studio.

I always loved to make records. That was my hobby like instead of playing golf I played at makin’ records.”


Feb 032015
henry stone billboard 1954

Clip from a 1954 issue of Billboard Magazine discussing Henry Stone’s newest signing

One of the biggest genius maneuvers of Henry Stone was always keeping his name hot in the media. All the way back to when he first moved to Miami in 1948, magazines like BILLBOARD and Cashbox (the jukebox trade mag), would always check in with him in Florida to see what he was doing as a distributor and as a manufacturer.

1000x1000 78-rpm-record-the-three-harmonicaires-motorcycle-boogie-blue-day-deluxe-2034_2802585 78-rpm-record-the-three-harmonicaires-motorcycle-boogie-blue-day-deluxe-2034_2802582

BILLBOARD wrote about Stone early and often and in the clip above, they discuss his signing of a group named the Three Harmonicaires to the DeLuxe record label he held a 50% share of as split with Syd Nathan of KING. In the short clip, he also highlights a pre-platinum Otis Williams and The Charms, with whom he would have a million selling crossover record called “Hearts Of Stone.”