Check out this classic article from the Henry Stone archives that includes interviews with platinum selling Timmy Thomas, Betty Wright, and Henry Stone too. In the final paragraph of the photo, the quote reads, “Miami is the funk capital of the world.” It was then, it is now, and it always will be. So stay tuned to more hits from Henry Stone Music Inc. and thanks for reading.
“I had a conversation with Berry Gordy one day. The founder of Motown. He called me up when I got hot with TK in the 1970’s. He said, “Henry what the fuck are ya doin,” cause I was his distributor too. I was a Motown distributor, and TK was goin crazy, but Motown was in a low period. In the 60s they were huge, and are still very big. But in the 70s, I ruled the world.
So Berry Gordy said to me, “Whatareya doin!?!”
I said, “I’m doing what you were doin in the 60s.”
And we were talkin about how his artists were accusing him of beatin em out of all this money, but you gotta rememebr in those days when we sold a million records it was a million 45s, and artists got paid 3 cents a record royalty.
If you sell a million LP’s, you’re getting a buck 50 a record, so there was no comparison. He said, “No motherfucker, I paid every nickel, it was on 45s not LP’s.
Now KC? He got all his money on his LPs. He got every nickel. KC was real cool. Course he had this bitch working for him, Sherry Smith, and she sat right next to my bookkeeper every day and knew that everything was happening. I’d give him his royalties every month practically. Which was good, he was takin care of business.”
“There’s two copyrights in the music business. It’s a 200% system. There’s 100% of the master, and 100% of the song. The copyright of the master: You go in the recording studio and you make a record and that’s a copyright of the master recording. Then there’s the copyright of the song. Usually the song is copyrighted first. That’s copyrighted by the publishing usually. Some songwriters copyright their own. There’s the song and then there’s the master. They’re both different copyrights. You can own the master and not own the publishing. You can own the publishing and not own the master. I always like to own both.”
“Sporty…King Sporty. He got shot by Sax Kari at the TK studio. I was outta town at the time, but I heard about it. Sporty was up there recording with Sax. Sax Kari was an old time musician from way back that hooked himself on to me and he ended up like living in the back of the upstairs at TK and takin care of all the masters, takin care of things, and he also played on some of the sessions. He was a musican and arranger. It was about one oclock in the morning there in the studio yknow how things go back and forth in the studio, you don’t like this, he don’t like that, and Sporty’s a pretty hot headed Rastafarian yaknow, typical shouting, and he starts shouting at Sax Kari and says, “Mon I’ma kill ya!”
Sax Kari sez, “Yyou gonna kill me? You gonna kill me?”
So Sax went back in his lttle room in the back of the studio, pulled out a gun, says, “You motherfucker you gonna kil me, Im’a kill you first.” And boom, shot him in the toe, shot him in the leg.” No cops were called or anything it was kept quiet.
Sporty was a Rastafarian who made some records for TK. A couple things for us on his own Konduko label, he had his own little labels. He’s been around quite a while. He was married to Betty Wright, he ended up marrying Betty Wright. He got busted, not sure what year, and I member goin down to court as a character witness, cause yknw he never did anything to me. I think they busted him on dope yknow, marijuana, and I testified he worked for me, he used to come in and work, play his music, and he also was involved with Bob Marley, he brought Bob Marley into the studio sometimes, in fact that’s where he wrote “Buffalo Soldier” with Bob Marley. At the time they were doin it i thought it was cute, good idea, but nothin was nothin. Nothin is nothin until it happens. And Sporty, he called me a while back, all upset “You didn’t invite me to your 90th birthday party ya sonofabitch.” He’s down here still. And when they busted him at the time i went down and did the whole thing and went to the judge and said, he’s cool, that as far as I know he didn’t do anything. I never saw him smoke weed, whateva bullshit, did the whole number, good musician who worked for me. And I happened to know the judge at that time, forget who he was exactly, and they let him off. Didn’t cost me nothin’. And yknow when you do shit like that it always comes around some way. Either the motherfuckers forget about ya or somewhere along the line it comes in a circle.”
“Fred Rector was my head of national promotions. He would take 10,000 records to the one-stop in Chicago, trade for cash, and then bring cocaine to all the key DJ’s in the country. That’s how it was done. That’s how I took over national airplay on my independent records.
It was very difficult to tell who was what cause Fred took care of business and it wasn’t something I knew about. I knew it was being done, cause I remember when TK was really swingin’ in the 70s with all these hits and there used to be these big Billboard conventions at the Hilton in New York….I would rent out two floors at the Hilton. We invited all these key jockeys, bout 20 key disc jockeys from round the country, and we had rooms for each one and on each table was a huge pile of coke. They’d be snorting on it all weekend.
Each DJ had their own room and whatever lady they wanted to bring, or guy, whatever they wanted. It was fantastic. These Billboard conventions. I had one side of the Hilton and on the other side Neil Bogart from Casablanca Records had the other side. Serious, serious party.
We did it for a couple years, not more than two or three years, cause it was quite expensive yaknow. Anywhere from $25-$50,000, but yknow we got the respect, and to this day the few of the guys that are alive will call me and say, you rememba? Wow Henry you rememeba?”
In the 1950’s there were three big disc jockeys in this country. There was Alan Freed in New York, Dick Clark In Philadelphia, and Bob Green in Miami. These three guys controlled all the hit records of the independents, and the majors too, cause there weren’t that many big hits on the majors at that time, it was all the independents.
I managed Bob Green, I was his manager. We became real tight. I was from the Bronx, Bob was from the Bronx, we hit it off, and I directed his career as a disc jockey. I told him what to play. I told him what to play and when to play it. And while he was playing all these great records, he became the number one disc jockey down here, and then we started to run the hops.
We ran hops and Steve Alaimo and his Redcoats were the house band. I used to run these dances with Bob.
We used to get these artists and all the companies. They would send me Paul Anka, you name it, Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, they would send em all down for nothing, just to get em’ on the Bob Green Show, cause they knew that if Bob was playing a record that Dick Clark would play the record or Alan Freed, It was like a whole combo thing, so they sent all the artists down to my hops, and I’ll never forget the first hop with Bob Green.
ABC sent Paul Anka, and we did fantastic, and I remember Bob was at the 1800 club, lived at the 1800 Club on Biscayne Boulevard somewhere. Bob lived there and I came in to give him his cut of the money. It was all singles, or 90 percent singles, and we started counting out the money and he had it spread all over his room. He said “I never saw so much money in my whole life!” Y’know all those dolla dolla bills.
I had complete control of him financially, spiritually, radiowise, everything. We were buddies, we used to hang out together. We used to go to the track together, that kind of thing. Until, he married a chick by the name of Anita Bryant. I was best man at the wedding by the way, in Oklahoma. Yeah, Bob Green, that was a whole era.
“All due respect, I respect guys like Clive Davis, but they had nothin’ in the street. All they had was big money behind them. I respect him, he had some great ears for Whitney Houston, and with Santana doin the thing he did with Santana, and the other girl. What was her name? Alicia Keys. That was his thing. He had some great ears for that. But he also had some great money to do what he had to do with it. Money. I mean money. I mean huge money. They would spend hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on their sessions before a record would get released. My session cost me $15 to do “Rock Your Baby.” And it was just as big, if not a bigger hit. And that’s the difference.”
“The convention was at the 4 Ambassadors, it was the first black convention. We had a lot of incidents happen there. It was a very upheaving convention because of the blackness. It was kinda early in the days of integration. Marshall Sehorn from New Orleans…Whatever the reasons are, these black mafia dudes from New York tried to muscle in on the record business y’know, they got a hold of him, this white guy Marshall, and beat the shit out of him in the elevator. Busted his face open with the butt of a pistol or something.
Also, a threat came through to Jerry Wexler that they were really gonna hassle Jerry Wexler from Atlantic Records. I heard about that and I got a hold of Joe Robinson from Harlem, who later on started Sugar Hill Records with “Rapper’s Delight,” which I put up the seed money for, and I sez, “Joe, we gotta step in and get Jerry out of this convention cause there might be something happening.” Which we did and nothin happened with Jerry. But the threat came through the underground that they were gonna like, they didn’t like what Jerry was doin with the black artists whatever the reason was yknow.
They tried to hold up Jerry Wexler and I stepped in with a couple of my New York mafia guys, black guys from the mafia who I used to have around me too. I had a bodyguard by the name of Rico. But when the black mafia started to move in I got real tight with em’. Rather than fight them I joined them.
They tried to get control of the record business but they didn’t, which was great. They didn’t. Too many factions, not just one faction, too many people to deal with. They had their little niche like everything else yknow.
They left me alone though. I had the black mafia protecting me. You remember King Coleman the disc jockey? He brought Joe Robinson to my office cause Joe said he wanted go in the record business. King Coleman said, “You don’t go in no record business without seeing Henry Stone.”
So he came to the office and I said, “Alright Joe, I’ll set you up with the distributors and so the first record he comes up with was Little Sylvia, “Pillow Talk.” A national hit!
And then later on see I was the distributor for his rap records. C’mon whats the fuckin?….Grandmaster Flash. That and what’s the other one? There was three big ones. I was pressing them for him ten thousand at a time. He couldn’t get any pressing on credit, and at that time TK was starting to cook. I had my own pressing plant.
I said, “OK Joe, i’ll make ya a deal. I’ll go in business with ya on the label.” But Joe was a tough guy from the hoodlums in Harlem yknow, and I got along with em great so I made a deal. Some kind of a deal. Not 50% but 20%, and then later on after we’re selling a nice amount of records I get a call from Morris Levy. He says, “Henry. I’ll tell ya what, man, I’m takin over. You’re out.”
I sez, “Good.” Cause I didn’t really wanna get too involved with Joe.
He was too tough. I could handle street shit, but not that Harlem shit, man, at that time that was too rough.
Morris said, “Whatever money we owe, we’ll take care of it.” And he took care of it.
“I was a distributor when CD’s came in. That’s what almost killed me. I hadda buy all those CDs! Along with still carrying LP’s, you hadda give em an order for, let’s say in the very beginning when the CDs first came out…Let’s say you were gonna order 100 units of something, you’d order 60 LPs and 40 CDs and then of course it started to change. You started ordering 60 and 40 the other way, then 70 and 30, and then eventually the LPs got eliminated and it was all CDs. Everything came out on CD form.
And I was a distributor. I was there. I was a distributor right through…even when I had TK, I had Tone Distributing.
I didn’t give up my distribution. In fact, today Inez is going out with Cheryl Regan who’s Russ Regan’s wife, and 20th Century is one of the labels I actually distributed when I had TK. I had big records with Barry White and “Kung Fu Fighting,” those were both Russ Regan yknow.
So I still had my Tone Distributing while I had TK. Thats when I became so huge that whoooo…hahaha. Tone wasn’t as big cause the independents started to do their own thing, their own distrobutions, Motown, Warner Bros, Atlantic yknow, and then suddenly labels like Arista, I had Arista which was Clive Davis, he ended up selling out to Columbia by the way, so I lost that line yknow.
TK became my big million dolla….multi million dolla operation with all those hit records. Hit artists. I built KC and The Sunshine Band, I built Latimore, I built George McCrae, I built Gwen McCrae, Jimmie Bo Horne, Little Beaver, Blowfly, Betty Wright….I built these artists just like Motown did their artists. I didn’t have just one hit. Every once in a while I’d get a one hit artist, same with Motown havin a one hit artist, but most of their things were building Supremes and the Tempts, they built their artists. I built my artists too like KC, I had 6 number one records with KC and three platinum LPs yknow. LPs. It was still LP time yknow in the 70s
I never became RIAA certified, I never joined that organization. I thought they were full of shit, just a way to rip the majors off, but the majors were in there they like controlled it yknow. All the majors were a part of it. They tried to get me join and I said nah man that’s a majors thing I dont wanna get involved with that. I just turned em down. I member a lot of the independents turned em down. I know Morris Levy never used the RIAA. They knew it was controlled by the majors. Big business. That was all part of it.
Going into the 1960s James Brown called me up one day and said, “Me and the band came down, got beat out of a date, we’re in Miami.”
I says, “Come on in the studio. I saw at a gig you did somethin called Mashed Potatoes.”
I told him, “I wanna record that.”
So we cut the Mashed Potato with the James Brown Band, with the JBs, but we called them Nat Kendrick, his drummer, and the Swans and that’s how we cut “(Do The) Mashed Potatoes”.
James was on there singing his ass off, but I had to take his voice off cause he was with King Records. I says, “James we can’t have your voice on there we gotta take your voice off,” so I put King Coleman on, the Disc Jockey, and of course that became a pretty big hit record
Now, I have the original recording with James Brown here if someday youd like to hear that.
So then later on, he left King Records, he went with Polydor Records , so he’s up in New York negotiating his contract with Polydor Records. It just so happened that we were at the Hilton, he was at the Maraquette, and I get a call from James. He says, “Henry where are ya Henry?”
I says, “I’m here in New York.”
He says, “Great! Come on over. I’m negotiating with Polydor and having a rough time, come on over.”
So it just so happened the president of Polydor was a good friend of mine, cause I distributed Polydor Records and I come over and James is there with his entourage With Hendry his hairdresser and everyone else. Al Sharpton. The whole crew.
So Polydor’s President calls me over to the side and says, “I think they’re gonna throw me outta the fuckin window here, you gotta help me!”
I said, “Ok whats the problem?”
See I happen to know from bein in the street and knowin the business, and Polydor knew that James was breaking out in Europe and all over the world very big. Maybe James didn’t know that at the time, cause he was always right here in the states, but I knew from my street information that his records were breaking out all over the world, very big, and his contract was up for a negotiation yknow.
So I says, “James, whattaya want?
He says, “I want a jet.”
A jet? I says okay and so I says to the Polydor pres, “You want this thing to go down where everything is cool, get James Brown a jet plane.”
Now they wouldna done it unless they knew his record was huge around the world cause his records weren’t doing that great here in the states at the time, they were doin good, cause he had a pretty good fan base, but where people would sell a half a million records, James was down to 2 or 3 hundred thousand in the states, but around the world in every other country his records were huge in the dance clubs, the pre discos in Europe.
And that’s how I got James Brown a jet from Polydor.
“The big fallout with Syd Nathan was this…I got involved with Syd Nathan to activate this DeLuxe Records label. He had this dormant label that wasn’t doin’ anything and he revived it and I was a 50% partner with him on it, and he was pretty cool. Very unusual thing, he was one of the first guys to really be independent in the music business. Very brilliant guy man. He had his King Records and he was the first individual to have his own pressing plant, made his own boxes, his own printing plant, and he had his own distribution for King Records. Little branch here in Florida, one in New York, Philly, all over. His own independent branches. Nobody else had that, he came up with that concept. Very brilliant guy. Had his own pressing plant in Cincinnati. Made his own boxes. Everything. Controlled the whole thing.
So I went with him to DeLuxe records and I worked alongside Henry Glover and Ralph Bass. Henry Glover ws the a&r guy for King Records, and Ralph Bass, artist and repertoire they’re the guy who puts the material together yknow, a&r men. Ralph Bass was the West Coast guy for Federal Records. Henry was King Records, and I was Deluxe. That’s how it was broken down.
When I come up with this big hit record, my first million seller “Hearts of Stone” by Otis Williams and The Charms….There’s a hotel in Cinicnatti, the Manse Hotel, the black hotel. I used to stay there. Ralph Bass was white, Henry Glover was black, and i was white yknow. We’re sittin there havin a ball one night drinking and i say i got a meeting with Syd tomorrow, man, I gotta get my shit together, we sold over a million records man.
They started to laugh, they said, “You ain’t gonna see a fuckin penny, man.”
I said, “What you talkin bout man motherfucker owes me, man. I know he’ll skim off the top some, so what that’s way its done so who cares, long as i get my piece yknow.”
They say, “Aright ok Henry. So next day i have the meeting with Syd Nathan. I sit down the office with him, big fuckin thick glasses, cigar, and he said, “Henry. Henry……..”
And I sez, “Where’s the books? I want to bring the accounting guys in. I wanna see how much money I got comin.”
He said, “You don’t got no money comin at this time.”
I said, “How the fuck could i sell a million records and i don’t have any money coming?”
He said, “I got family. It’s a corporation. Im 50% owner of the company, and the corporation is 50% owner. If you get half the money from DeLuxe and I have to split the rest with ten other people, they’re gonna get mad.”
I said, “Gimmee my fuckin money!”
He said, “It don’t work that way motherfucker.” And then he started to get really get fuckin mad.
That just made me angry. I was a young guy, 35 years old, and that was my first big hit. I went over the table to choke him and I was gonna fuckin kill him. They pulled me off. They said that aint gonna do any good man. I said, “Ok motherfucker ill see you in court.”
That’s when i sued him. I didn’t wanna sue him in Ohio or Florida. Some friends told me when i got involved with lawyers and friends of mine, they said, “Sue him in New York. He’s got lots of assets that King owns there, so if you win the judgment you’ll be able to collect. Cincinnatti politics and all hat shit.”
So, bottom line is I ended up settling for some money. I made a deal. He gave me about 50,000 pressings to start my own label. And I ended up with The Charms. It was a settlement. I didn’t believ in goin to court anyway. That’s all bullshit.
If i needed to press up records i was able to get em, that was part of my deal. So I went back to Miami and started Chart Records.”
“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. 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 know 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 Saqm 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.”