Henry Stone on Ordering 13,000 Records at A Time: “Manufacturers Loved Me”
“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. And if a record sold a million, I would sell a hundred thousand of it. 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 known 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 Sam 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.”
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