Henry Stone on Aretha Franklin: “She Used To Pour Her Soul Out On My Piano”
“Aretha used to love to come down to Miami. I remember one time in the 70s she came down here and she was goin’ through a hard time. I don’t know if it was some guy had broke her heart or what, but she had it bad. She came down to Miami and stayed down at the Hampton House on NW 27th Ave in Brownsville, far away from everythin so she could cool her head.
When she was just a little kid performing as Little Aretha Franklin she’d play auditoriums in the inner city of Miami in a neighborhood called Overtown at Northwestern High School. Over the years as she traded gospel for pop and got big with Atlantic she’d come down for gigs, and in-stores, and radio promotion and she got to be real good friends with my buddy Butterball.
She loved him. And he loved cooking for her. He’d make her big old fried chickens and bbq ribs, his specialty. Milton “Butterball” Smith was a radio DJ, but in the 70s he came and joined the TK organization as a community liaison. Whenever she came into town she would usually stop by and I got to know her a little bit.
Well, I had an 8 track studio up above my office where I cut “Cleanup Woman,” “Funky Nassau,” “Rock Your Baby” and all that stuff. I sold millions of records off a little 8 track board. And right outside my office I had a piano.
Well this one time I was talking about, Aretha was coming over to TK from the Hampton House just about everyday. She used to come up around 11a.m. or noon cause it wasn’t too far a drive. Butterball would bring her over and she’d just sit at the piano I had outside my office and just fuckin’ groove.
I never recorded her because of Jerry Wexler. But if I had put down on tape what she was doing, I’d have ten million dollars in my pocket right now. She had a helluva voice.
Well one morning I didn’t show up at my usual hours cause I was out takin care of business and when i got there she was out in the parking lot screaming “Where is that motherfucker Henry Stone!?!” She was screaming, she was crying until I finally let her in and she sat down at the piano and just started pouring out her soul.
Gives me chills just thinking about it. I wanted to record her so bad, but I didn’t
And Butterball cooked for her all day long that day. And she could eat let me tell ya. She could eat about as well as she sang.”
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