James Brown talks to Larry King about his friendship with Henry Stone.
Henry Stone and James Brown through the years:
Me and James Brown were great friends since about 1954. At the time I was working with Syd Nathan of King Records on a label we had a 50-50% deal on called DeLuxe Records. I was working a record called “Hearts Of Stone” by Otis Williams and The Charms that would go on to be the first million selling r&b record to cross over into the pop charts. Anyway, I was sitting in my office in Miami when I got a call from Syd. He said, “Henry, there’s guy in Macon, Georgia by the name of James Brown whos got a hot acetate for this song “Please, Please, Please.” I want you to get your ass up there as fast as you can and sign him to DeLuxe.”
So right away I hopped in my little blue Buick and drove up the coast of Florida as fast as I could. Meanwhile, Syd had made a very similar phone call to his A&R for Federal Records, the legendary Ralph Bass. Well Ralph was just one state over from Georgia at the time, so he ended up beating me to Macon by a day. He offered James a recording contract, and he took it and signed to Federal Records.
So, I got there a day later and met the guy, and ya know what, we really hit it off. I listened to his song and I said “Man this is a hit. I’m gonna take it on the road with me while I’m promoting Hearts Of Stone and give it some DJs I know.” He was real cool and appreciative, and of course his King recordings really started to take off.
When I got back to Miami I had a conversation with my buddy Ernie Busker who ran a concert hall called the Million Dollar Palms of Hallandale. It was just barely north of Miami, a nice big outdoorish venue with a huge long bar off a dirt road almost in the middle of nowhere like. Ernie used to throw these huge dances with all the big R&B acts of the time from Wynonie Harris to Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson. ANyway, he asked me if I had a lead on any new talent and I told him all about James Brown. He booked him for a weekend of gigs and made a lot of money. He asked me about booking him again so I said “Listen, Ernie, this kid is gonna be a big star, you saw how he performed out there. You better give him a couple thousand bucks now so you can get him back later.” He agreed, and I took James Brown a nice big wad of cash, and James Brown had a great memory. He never forgot that.
We were really tight throughout the years and he wouldn’t sign a contract or put out an album without letting me read every word and hear every song first. When Poygram wanted to sign him, I told them they had to give him a private jet. And they did! All through my TK years he used to call me all the time, and come down to Miami to hang out every few weeks.
We also had a record label together called BrownStone.
James Brown was great friend and I still miss our conversations to this day. I can picture it so perfectly in my mind, sending young KC to M&M Liquors any time James came through, and drinking Cognac with him in the bar I had in my office at TK Records.