Henry Stone On Song Pluggers, Promoting Big Bands On Radio, and Playing Trumpet

henry stone

“In the days of big bands, sheet music was a big thing. Radio stations either had bands playing live, or if they wanted to play recordings, they played acetates. So when I was a kid in New York City I used to work as a song plugger with my buddy Lyge McKelvey. We used to take our sheet music to the big bands and try to get them to play the sheets live on the radio.

At that time I was connected with Tommy Tucker and Van Alexander, about 1938, 37′. I was a young guy about 15 or 16 years old workin with the Tommy Tucker Orchestra.

So one day I had an idea for a new gimmick. When Tommy Tucker had this song out “I Want To Set The World On Fire,” I had him press up records and I took em around to radio stations. The radio stations go “What is this?” cause nobody’d ever brought em’ a record to play before.

So I said, “Just play the fuckin thing.”

I got into the music business very early. As a trumpet player.

I was a good trumpet player. But I wasn’t a great trumpet player. So I had to make a decision when I got out of the Army whether I wanted to continue to be a trumpet player, or get into the business end of the music business. Which I did, I got into the business end of the music business.

So my real first love was to be a trumpet player, but I couldn’t follow through because of circumstances.

I couldn’t compete with the guys that I grew up with like Shorty Rogers and Shelly Manne, some of the real terrific musicians yknow. Jazz musicians. In some of the bands I played like first trumpet. I played the lead horn. I didn’t play the jazz parts yknow. I didnt have no greatness as a trumpet player. Goodness is what I had. Goodness was not good enough. To make it yknow, to make a living, to make it in those days you had to be great.

I was great at something else. Distribution and manufacturing.”


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