Henry Stone in a still from the documentary about his life and work.
Henry Stone’s TK Disco empire was a conglomeration of over 15 of his own record labels independently producing thousands of singles, EP’s, and LP’s that sold hundreds of millions of copies throughout the 1970′s.
But it may have never happened if not for a conversation he had with good friend Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records about the future of their companies.
See, Henry Stone’s bread and butter was working as a distributor, and it had been since 1948. Making records was a hobby that he loved. Here’s what Stone had to say about the birth of the biggest independent record label in the world (for it’s era), TK Productions, the world’s leading progenitor of disco, r&b, funk, and soul.
Henry says, “Jerry Wexler moved here to Florida, him and Tom Dowd. And they were recording out of Criteria with Eric Clapton and living down here.
So i used to go out to lunch with Jerry almost every day, we used to hang out and go out to lunch. So one day he says “I got some good news and some bad news.”
I say “Give me the bad news man, good news I can always handle.”
Jerry Wexler in the studio with Aretha Franklin, both friends of Henry Stone.
He says, “In about 6 months time….and you gotta keep this quiet, cause nobody knows, but….in 6 months time, Atlantic, Warner Bros, and Elektra are gonna form their own distributing company and pull away from all the independednt distributors.”
I said, “Changes, man.”
I did have a lot of labels, but I didn’t like the idea, cause I did a lot of businss with Atlantic and Warner Brothers, but I had a lot of labels, so it wasnt gonna cripple me as a distributor.
Then, along comes my next hit record, Timmy Thomas, with “Why Can’t We Live Together.”
I was on my way to New York to make a deal with Atlantic to put out “Why Cant We Live Together,” and as I’m on the plane I’m thinkin, “Why am I gonna give em’ this record and I’m not gonna distribute it? Thats not gonna make too much sense for Henry Stone yaknow.”
So I said “Look, I’m gonna form my own record comapny, TK.” And I released “Why Can’t We Live Together” on TK and not Atlantic. And that was the big hit that really started it.”