Feb 092016


“The Twist,” is one of the most popular dance crazes of all time and its first version was recorded in the North Miami Armory.

The band was Hank Ballard and The Midnighters. The engineer was Mack Emerman. And the producer was Henry Stone.

Here’s what Stone had to say about the recording of the original, and who gave Chubby Checker the idea to record his version.

“I got a call around 1961 or ’62 to go on the road with Hank Ballard and The Midnighters for like 2 weeks. Driving through the south. I was the white man, so I had to buy food for the band and bring it to the car. True story.

Hank Ballard became a friend of mine. He said “My contract is about to be up with King. I wanna get with either Vee-Jay or Chess.”

I said, “No problem. I called my friend Ewart Abner at Vee-Jay and said “How would you like to sign Hank Ballard?”

Ab said to me, “Record him now.”

I didn’t have a studio then, but Mack Emerman had a lot of portable recording equipment. I brought Hank and The Midnighters to the North Miami Armory and Hank came up with “The Twist,” but like a blues grind. Cal Green was tuning up his guitar and I said, “How bout we do it like a dance song.”

That’s the original record…

At that time it was nothin’, just another record. I sent the tape up to Abner at Vee-Jay and that was it.

Well, actually…It ended up being some bullshit where Hank was still on paper with Syd Nathan at King Records. The contract wasn’t up yet. So Abner sold him the tapes and it came out on the King label.

I did business in records and turned em into cash.

Later, the Cameo Parkway label sent Chubby Checker down to do one of my hops with Bob Green. Chubby came to the studio when I was cutting James Brown doin’ the “Mashed Potato.” I told him that if he’s looking for a song to go look at this little B Side that came out on King Records, and so I’m the man responsible for “The Twist.” But these were just things I did to make a living, I never thought twice about it at the time.”

©HenryStoneMusic Inc. and Jacob Katel. All Rights Reserved.

Feb 052016
King Coleman In The Miami Times Newspaper, 1958

King Coleman In The Miami Times Newspaper, 1958

“Milton “Butterball” Smith was the biggest DJ down here as far as I’m concerned, but King Coleman was very strong too. Y’know why he was so strong? He used to give the numbers on the air. Bolita. The numbers. When he broadcast on the radio, he used to give the numbers out, man, street lottery, for whoever ran it, the gangsters.

And then of course, I put him on a hit record, and after that he quit the radio and tried to make it as an artist.

Going into the 60s James Brown came down, man, with the whole band and got beat out of a date. So I says to James, “Come on in the studio. I saw a gig where you did somethin called Mashed Potatoes.”

I said, “I wanna record that.”

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Feb 042016
Henry Stone at Henry Stone Music Headquarters

Henry Stone at Henry Stone Music Headquarters, 2013 – Jake Katel

“Bob Austin was a writer for Billboard, then the editor of Cashbox Magazine, and later the owner of Record World Magazine.

All those magazines basically had charts and everything and went out to jukebox operators and record companies.

Bob Austin and I go way back to when he was a young guy working at Billboard Magazine, and I was a young guy workin’ with Tommy Tucker and his orchestra. I remember bringing them up some ad copy. I guess it was in 1937 or so, when I was about 16 or 17 years old.

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Feb 032016
Henry Stone portrait

Henry Stone, Grove Isle, 2013 – Jake Katel

“The cash always went into growing the business, my record distribution business; and with the inventories growing you neeeded cash all the time. You needed money to grow your business cause see the banks, whatever the reason was, the banks didn’t believe the record industry.

You couldnt go to the bank like you would to get a car or to get furniture and all that stuff. They didnt, whatever the reason, the banks down here and everywhere around the country want to get involved. You couldnt go to a bank and say, i’m talking in the beginning, and get credit for a record company. They’d say “What’s a record?”

They didnt know what a fuckin record was man…They never heard of a record.

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Feb 022016

When an 11 year old Betty Wright won a “name that tune” contest on her local radio station she never knew it would set in motion a chain of events that would lead to her founding a school where she trains songwriters.

“That came from Clarence,” she said of Clarence Reid at his funeral in the historic Range Funeral Home in Liberty City.

Wright gave a powerful speech and sang an awesome song.