“Savoy Records was owned by a guy named Herman Lubinsky. He was one of the first independent record companies in the early 1940s; out of Newark, New Jersey. A real character, man, Herman Lubinsky. I distributed his records. He was a tough guy, tough little guy.
In fact, his grandson, his grandson T.J. Lubinsky is the guy that does the show on PBS, with all the oldie acts and everything.
Lubinsky was always chewing the big cigar. Real typical. Big glasses. He used to sue everybody. Just to sue em’. Him and Syd Nathan. They were both like that. Ooh these characters are all in my head . In those days if I could just videocamera this whole thing it’d be worth billions of dollars.
Here’s the kinda guy Herman Lubinsky was. I distributed his records right? So he came up with a pretty big hit record. Little Esther was it? Little Esther? Something blues…It was pretty big blues record on Savoy. Double Crossing Blues? Johnny Otis produced it. He was a terrfic guy. I did some recordings in his studio in California.
“Mistrustin Blues!” by Little Esther with Mel Walker and the Johnny Otis Orchestra. Savoy Records. So Herman Lubinsky right? He comes up with a hit. And I needed about 3,000 records right away. And he was sorta like on a cash basis. You gotta pay him cash. But I didn’t have enough to cop the records. I needed a thousand bucks. So I’ll never forget goin’ down and hockin’ my furniture to go down and get the records. I hocked my furniture, man. Straight to the pawn shop. And I got enough money to get the records. That’s the kind of character Herman Lubinsky was. He wouldn’t front anybody. I had to hock my furniture. I hadda get the records, man. I hadda get the hit records. It was 78s too. Big boxes, man.”
“Joe Galkin. He discovered Otis Redding. I used to work for him in New York when I was a kid, 15 or 16 years old. I kept in touch with him through the years, and then one day I was on 47th street with Tone Distributing and he came down to me and said, “I wanna get out of New York and move to Miami, can you get me a job?”
I said, “I don’t know what you could to promote down here, I do all the promoting down here Joe,” yknow, cause he was a promotion man, and a hustler, I sez, “I’ll tell ya what…I just spoke to Gwen Kessler in Atlanta and they need a promotion man, let me call her up.”
I called her up and got him a job with Gwen Kessler and they became real tight. In fact, he became her like father practically yknow, and he took real good care of her, and while he was there in Atlanta, he found Otis Redding. He worked for Atlantic Records up there, and when he passed away he left everything to Gwen Kessler.”
“Sitting one day in my office at Tone Distributors, I received a phone call from Walter Hoffa’s office. Walter was a top New York lawyer at that time who represented the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and other major acts from Europe. Upon answering my phone call, a young attorney from Hoffa’s office got on the phone and introduced himself to me as Mr Allen Grubman. He said he was representing a group called The Beginning of The End who at the time had a top 5 record (Funky Nassau). It was on the Alston label, which I owned and the record was distributed by Atlantic. Mr Grubman stated that the contract that I had with the group should be broken. At that time I asked mr Grubman if he knew who he was talking to. And told him that the contract that i had was with Atlantic and a very strong contract, and being very angry at this conversation I threatened to get on the next plane and kick his ass.
The phone hung up very quickly and about 10 minutes later I received a phone call from Walter Hoffa, who before becoming a lawyer was promo man for MGM Records. So I had some form of relationship with Walter and he said “What did you do to one of my new attorneys?” And I told him I didn’t like his attitude, he had a snotty New York attitude and didn’t know what he was talking about. By the way the contract was never broken. It was a firm and good contract.
About 4 weeks later I called Walter due to circumstances and major changes in the record industry. The changes being Atlantic, Warner Bros, Elektra were gonna form their own distribution network. Consequently I would lose distribution of my own Alston label, so I decided to do my own manufacturing and distribution.
I wanted Walter and his firm to represent me. He said he would do so and I planned to meet him in New York. I arrived in New York at Laguardia airport and a young smiling Jewish gentleman by the name of Allen Grubman was there to pick me up. Walter had sent him to pick me up. Of course upon meeting him I took to his New York Allen Grubman ways. He drove me to Walter’s office. On the way to Walter’s office he told me he had just gotten out of law school and went knocking on doors on 57th street and was hired by Walter Hoffa’s firm. Not knowing a lot about the music business at the time, and just getting into law from being a school teacher, Allen was eager to get as much knowledge as he could about the music industry. After our initial incident we seemed to have a strong rapport with one another and this was the beginning of a very long business and personal relationship. Walter Hoffa asked me if i would mind if he assigned Allen as my lawyer and I though that was a great idea, because Walter was a very busy attorney. This way I had a young attorney with his full attention on my work.
As in my past performances of hit records, I called Allen at Walter’s office and told him I had a hit record breaking big in South Florida and I’d meet him in New York to try and make a foreign deal because I was gonna distribute this record myself. The record was “Why Cant We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas. I arrived in New York a few days later and with Allen we started negotiating with Polygram Records and we made a deal with Polygram the following day. At the time while I was in New York I had some deals with Morris Levy where Morris owed me some money for some of my publishing. I took Allen by the arm and said “Come with me to Roulette Records, I have to pick up some money.” I think that was Allen’s first experience of meeting Morris Levy. After talking to Morris and negotiating with Morris he agreed to pay me $10,000 in cash for what was owed at the time. Upon walking out of the office Allen said, “What a guy. What a deal.” I handed Allen $1,000 and said, “Here’s your 10% lawyers fee.” The money was for a weird deal with “Mashed Potatoes,” some kind of a ripoff with the “Peppermint Twist” yknow.”
“Fury Records. That was Bobby Robinson from Harlem’s label. Bobby was one of the first guys with rap records in all of New York. But don’t get confused, there was Bobby Robinson and there was Joe Robinson. Two different people. Bobby owned the record shop at 125th street, and he had Fury, Fire, and Enjoy Records. His own labels. In 1980 he put out Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five “Superrappin'” and Spoonie Gee’s “Love Rap.” but he also had a couple pretty big hits in the 50s and 60s, like “Goin To Kansas City” by Wilbert Harrison. I recorded Wilbert Harrison down here in Florida in the 1950s. Nothin ever happened really. He went up to New York and cut a record to two companies at the same time. One guy was Herman Lubinsky and Savoy Records, and the other guy was Bobby Robinson on Fury Records. “Goin To Kansas City” was a huge huge record. Herman Lubinsky tried to sue Bobby’s ass off. I don’t know who actually won, but I think they actually settled.
If you control the money, you control a lot. Even though you claim you own the song or own the record, whether you make a settlement or go to court, usually the lawyer gets all the money.
That was a big conflict. I know it almost put Bobby in his grave. Lubinsky was a tough old man. When you start in with all the lawyers, that’s when shit gets ugly, man.
I distributed all of Bobby Robinson’s labels for him. They weren’t big hits then but later on they were all sampled by the rappers and everything yaknow. Fury had a lot of stuff out. Fire and Fury. Fire Records and Fury Records. Bobby Robinson from 125th street. I used to go visit his shop. Me and Hymie Weiss used to go visit his shop all the time. Hymie and I used to go to Harlem all the time. Jeeeesus, those days. We used to walk around like we owned the fuckin town. Hymie that bold motherfucka hahaha. Hangin at the record stores, anything to do with the music yaknow. There was a place we used to go I forget the name of the place up there in Harlem all the time. Like a daytime nightclub. Everybody used to hang out there in Harlem, I forget the name of it. Oh gawwd ,, names.”
“Bob Shad was a very, very, close friend of mine. Bob started out recording blues artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins. In fact, I distributed his records, and we also became very good friends. We used to hang out together. he used to stay at my house when he came down, yknow real close. And when I cut the Ray Charles stuff, when I first cut it, I started to put it on my Rockin’ label, but I let Bobby do some on his Sittin’ In With Records. I had him do a little distribution on it yknow. Then after a year I took it back cause nothin was happening and thats when I released it on Rockin’ Records. Bob Shad was a piloting enthusiast and about 20 years ago he had a plane crash and passed away. He also produced Dinah Washington I think for Mercury. He was a good music guy, a real music guy. See, in those days we were all music guys. We didn’t have lawyers or accountants, man, they weren’t fuckin’ heard of. Music people, man, we dug the music, or we didn’t like it, or we made deals, just like with my deal with Bob Shad. It was a handshake, but after a year I said “Bobby nothins’ happenin’, give em back to me.” But thats the way it was. Now it’s all fuckin accountants and lawyers, and they don’t know the first fuckin thing about a record.”
“I received a phone call from my attorney Allen Grubman one day that he was having a problem at Walter Hoffa’s office. If he left Walter’s would I be one of his clients? And he wanted to know what I thought about him leaving, and I said, “If you dont do it now, you’ll never do it. If the opportunity presents itself you have to take it.” I told him I would be his first client and this gave him the confidence of the finances he needed to branch out on his own. I liked Allen’s style, felt he was very good at what he did and that he would be successful. About 3 weeks later or so, at the time Allen was going out on his own, I had also made the decision to form TK Records and go on my own. I recorded a record by the name of “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae. This record broke out so fast I knew that I had to do something immediately with it. I called Allen in New York and found out he was traveling in the south trying to secure the Malaco Group as a client. I reached Allen in Jackson Misisssippi at the Malaco office and said “Allen, your troubles are over.I have the fastest breaking record in the world!” Along with my Tone Distribution I had an international company called Tone International, and I started to get calls from Germany, France, England, The Caribbean Islands etc. I decided instead of him coming to Miami I would meet him in New York. Bob Summers who was the head of RCA International had just recently made head of the department coming from a minor post in the organization. Bob was very interested in “Rock Your Baby” and we made the deal with Bob for worldwide distribution.
I had some independent pressing plants but they couldn’t keep up with it, so I had to go to RCA Victor and they made me a deal. They gave me 100,000 pressings or 200,000 pressings. And actually the weird part was, I don’t know how it worked out but Morris Levy like guaranteed it. With RCA Victor for “Rock Your Baby.” It was interesting. I guess I had a pretty good relationship with Morris. We ended up selling 27 million worldwide.
So we made the deal with Bob for worldwide distribution excluding the US which I distributed myself. After we made the deal I rememebr Allen and myself on 6th avenue like two little school kids patting ourselves on the back for making this major deal with this major company.”