Henry Stone On the Florida Record Distribution Biz: “All Through The State, Man”
“I used to go out on the road and sell records all through Wildwood, Florida, and Tampa, and all through Jacksonville. Once in a while I’d go through Tallahassee….very rarely though. The panhandle I never went too much. I’d go as far north as Jacksonville basically and through Ocala and down Gainesville, Tampa, and West Palm, Broward, Hallandale, Opa Locka, Miami, South Miami, Goulds, Perrine, yaknow, all the way south to the Florida Keys.
We’re talkin early days. Late 1940’s. 1950s.
Every third week or so. When I got new product basically. It’s all about the product. That change. The product. The newest black indie records. They needed it. The juke box operators neeeded product to put on those juke boxes yaknow.
I was the cat that had it, man, so they would wait for me to come around. I’d carry the stuff in my car. Or sometimes I’d just have the samples. The sample of a record and ship it. On a record. Regular 78rpm. It was before the 45s. On a 78. I’d say hey man send me 50 of those, I need 50 or a 100.
I’d carry my samples and take em’ around to play for the next cat. I’d take an order from each customer and when I’d get back to Miami I’d ship it to em’. I’d say, “Listen to this new Amos Millburn, listen to this new Lonnie Johnson, Wynonie Harris, Bullmoose Jackson, Louis Jordan, Dinah Washington. Any new labels that I had, any new artist. I’d play the sample from each of them to each of the jukebox operators.
And how many copies they bought all depended how big their route was. Like the one guy in Tampa,he had a route of about 200 machines. I used to order 200 of a record for him. I dont remember too many of those old names from out of town. He was just a cracker guy, real nice guy, real terrific guy. It was good for him too cause I used to get the hit records though man.
I was all through the state, man, hustlin’ records. That’s when I was building my distribution company. And in the 60s I built it into a big distribution company. Big time.”
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