Lookout Wynwood! Mysterious Henry Stone street art posters have been taking over the neighborhood as Art Basel Miami 2013 descends on the city.
We don’t know who the crusaders putting these up are, but it’s good to know that as the eyes of the world are upon Miami this week, that the creator of the Miami Sound of music will be recognized too.
If you don’t know, Henry Stone is a pioneer in R&B, soul, funk, disco, dance, and hip hop music. He produced the first version of The Twist, and wrote a song covered by Frank Sinatra. He was friends with Leonard Chess, and the first distributor for Atlantic Records.
From recording Ray Charles in a warehouse on Flagler street in 1951, to discovering Sam&Dave, Betty Wright, Little Beaver, Latimore, George McCrae, KC & The Sunshine Band, Timmy Thomas, Blowlfy, Willie Clarke, and many more, Henry Stone is a giant in the world of modern music history.
From being James Brown’s Godfather, to selling hundreds of millions of records around the globe, Henry Stone has never lost the flavor of the streets of the City of Miami, and now they bear his face in tribute to that legacy.
When Steve Alaimo was in college he had a band called the Redcoats. Around that time, he started hangin’ around with me as a promotion man, sort of a hangaround guy, and I’d take him up to Ernie Busker’s place, the Palms Of Hallandale to see BB King and James Brown. I think it really influenced his sound and the way he sung and the way he performed. Man, Steve was great on stage.
Later I got him on as the opener for James Brown for a stadium show in Miami, and after the gig James said to me “Don’t ever let that whiteboy on before me again.” That’s how good Steve was. James didn’t want him stealing any of his thunder.
When he was first starting out he played rooms like The Eden Roc on Miami Beach and later the big room at the Diplomat Hotel. He was doing standards, show tunes, good ol music, yaknow…music.
William Morris was the first agency to handle him and one of his first agents was Famous Amos. That’s what he did before the cookies, he was Steve’s talent agent at the William Morris Agency.
I’d say that Steve was really the first blue eyed soul singer to come along yaknow.
It was about 1955. I got a call from Syd Nathan, the president of King Records up in Cincinatti. He said, “Henry, there’s an artist up in Macon, Georgia named James Brown. You should check him out and sign him to DeLuxe Records.
Then he called up Ralph Bass who also worked for him and told him the same thing. Ralph happened to be in Birmingham, Alabama takin’ care of some business at the time, so he beat me to Macon by about a day and signed James Brown to the King subsidiary Federal Records. They ended up recording “Please, Please, Please,” which of course became a million seller.
So I get there a day later, and I met James, and he just knocked me over…just his whole attitude, everything, I saw him perform with Bobby Byrd at the time his group the Flames and I knew he was gonna be a star.
I said, “Man, listen, this is it, I’m gonna take your record out on the road with me while I’m promoting my DeLuxe label. I’ll make this a big hit for you James.”
I’ll tell ya one thing about James Brown, he never forgot one word anybody ever said about him, good or bad.
I went on the road and started hitting radio stations with my records, and his “Please Please Please,” and then I called Ernie Busker at the Million Dollar Palms, this little club in Hallandale, just outside Miami. We were buddies. He knew I had my ear to the ground all the time.
I told Ernie “Look there’s a guy up in Georgia, his record’s busting wide open, “Please Please Please,” you can get him down here for $500 bucks. So I got James down for $500 dollars, he worked the hell out of the Palms of Hallandale, and forget it, that weekend, after the first night, you couldn’t get near that place. That’s how packed it was.
Ernie said, “Wow! Fantastic. I’d like to get him back.” So I says, “Sure. Gimme about 3 thousand bucks and I can get him back.” He says “Really?” I says “Yeah, I’ll talk to him.” So I’m not sure the exact amount, if it was 3 or 4, but it was several thousand bucks he gave me. I gave it to James. I says, “Here man.” He says, “Is that for me?” I says, “Yeah man, you earned it.” And he never forgot that.
And to the day, almost the day he died, he called me from all over the world almost every two weeks. We were friends for over 50 years. We even did a label together, BrownStone Records. I was like his Godfather. He never forgot.
He used to call me “Hennystone,” man, and always made me feel real good that I was involved with his music. Throughout his whole career he would never put a record out, he’d fly down to Miami, or I’d hop in his private jet, and before he put a record out I’d have to hear it first. This went on for years and years.
An old shot of Henry and James Brown at the Hot offices in 1997. Henry met James way back when James was just starting out and gave him some valuable advice that helped launch his career. They became good friends for the rest of James’ life. They even had a record label together called BrownStone (Get it? Brown + Stone). This photo still hangs on Henry’s office wall as a reminder of his good friend.
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.
Early photo of James Brown and Henry Stone c. 1968
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.
James Brown hanging out in Henry Stone’s office.
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.
James Brown and Henry Stone out on the town.
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.
Last week I got a call from Carol, a producer for “The Story, With Dick Gordon,” a really great nationwide public radio show that wanted to interview me for a segment on The Miami Sound.
So today, I drove up to the WLRN studio in Downtown Miami and got on the ISDN line with Dick Gordon in North Carolina for the interview.
Wow, he really did his research. We talked about my early days as a trumpet player in the first integrated army band at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. We talked about my moving to California after the war, how I worked with a 17 year old Mel Torme at the studio of Ben Pollock, how I ended up with the Bihari Brothers at Modern Records, and my early distribution efforts (nationwide) with the train porters.
We talked about my Tone Distributing, growing with Atlantic, hitting the road with Leonard Chess, and a few big hits I had like “Cleanup Woman,” “Funky Nassau,” “Rockin’ Chair,” and of course the first ever worldwide disco hit “Rock Your Baby” with George McCrae.
All in all, it was a great story, and I can’t wait to hear it on the radio, playing to over 125 FM stations around the U.S. (and a couple of AM stations too). And I can’t wait for you to hear it too. I will make sure and let you know when it’s out.
The James Brown Band aka The J.B.’s – Groove Machine $12.98
1. Rock Groove Machine (9:00)
2. Georgia Peach Disco (10:03)
3. Just Wanna Make You Dance (8:08)
[The J.B.s featuring MAXX]
4. Rock Disco #1 (7:10)
5. Rock (4:30)
Euro Disco Funk
by The James Brown Band
aka The J.B.’s
This 1970s trend-setting album steps way outside the box, as the James Brown produced J.B.’s lay down a disco groove that will make you get up off that thang and dance like a white boy. Don’t miss out on this thumping Disco Classic!
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1. Betty Wright – Clean Up Woman Sample
2. Jimmy Bo Horne – Spank Sample
3. Little Beaver – Party Down Sample
4. Gwen McCrae – Rockin’ Chair Sample
5. Steve Alaimo & Betty Wright – The Smoke Is Gone Sample
6. Latimore – Let’s Straighten It Out Sample
7. Peter Brown – Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me Sample
8. The Charms – Hearts Of Stone Sample
9. Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together Sample
10. Foxy – Get Off Sample
11. T-Connection – Do What You Wanna Do Sample
12. Clarence Reid – Nobody But You Babe Sample
13. Wilson Pickett – The Best Part Of A Man Sample
14. Miami f/ Robert Moore – Party Freaks Sample
15. James Brown – Rapp Payback Sample
* WHO IS HENRY STONE?
Henry Stone is noted as one of the handful of individuals that started the independent movement in the music business. His involvement was key in bringing the music industry to the world. Henry Stone, dubbed the Godfather of Florida & Miami Soul, R&B, Blues, & Dance, has been an instrumental part of the music industry in Miami and throughout the world as both an independent record label owner and distributor. Stone found his niche after WW II by selling records from the trunk of his car.
In the early 1950s he was one of the first to record Ray Charles. He found and recorded James Brown as early as 1955. Also in 1955 he had his first million selling record with the Charms singing “Hearts of Stone”. In the 1960s Stone became the largest independent record distributor in the Southeast, distributing for Atlantic, Warner Bros., Motown, Stax and many more. At the time these were all independent record labels. Stone started the Miami Music craze in the late 1960s with million sellers from artists like Beginning of the End “Funky Nassau”, Clarence Reid “Nobody But You Babe”, Betty Wright “Clean Up Woman” and others. Stone’s biggest label, TK Records, was founded in the 1970s and charted 23 gold and platinum records worldwide. He discovered KC & The Sunshine Band and other million sellers including George McCrae, Gwen McCrae, Latimore, Timmy Thomas, Peter Brown and many more.
Hidden Treasures is a collection of some of the Legendary Henry Stone’s favorite songs from his labels 1950 – 1980. Vol. 1.
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1. Funk On Ahh Roll
2. That Lucky Old Sun
3. Respect Me (First, Respect Yourself) Radio Mix Sample
4. Respect Me (First, Respect Yourself) Club Mix
5. God Is Good Sample
6. Peace In The World
7. I Wanna Be Loved on The “1” Sample
8. Motivation Remix
9. Say It Again (with James Brown & Bobby Byrd)
10. Betcha Bottom Dollar (Yamma Brown)
11. Betcha Bottom Dollar Instrumental
12. I Got To Feel It (Yamma Brown)
13. All Weather Girl (Venisha Brown)
In the mid-1950s, I was in Miami when I received a call from King records president, Syd Nathan. He had heard about a demo track cut in Macon, Georgia by an R&B group called The Famous Flames. They had been making quite a bit of noise in and around Macon. The group leader was a flamboyant lead singer and dancer by the name of James Brown. I jumped into an old blue Buick and immediately headed for Macon to meet with James. I was hoping to pick up the demo for my King distributed Deluxe label. At the same time Nathan had called me, he had also contacted Federal records A&R (Artist & Repertoire) man, Ralph Bass. Bass, who was in Birmingham, Alabama at the time, also hightailed it to Macon. The demo that was causing all the excitement was called “Please, Please, Please”.
Bass, who was closer to Macon, beat me there by one day. He picked up the master demo and sent it on to King records in Cincinnati. When I arrived in Macon a day later I met James Brown for the first time and explained that I was sent by Nathan to pick up the master demo. I further explained to James that I was part of King records and after listening to the demo myself, I knew that it was James Brown’s raw emotion that really made this song stand out. I knew without a doubt it was going to be an immediate smash hit. I told James I was going to be very instrumental in promoting his soon to be pressed demo. The demo was pressed as a record on the Federal label in the spring of 1956 and with the help of my promotion and my belief in James Brown, it became a huge R&B smash. It would in time become his trademark song in which he launched his legendary Cape act.
Upon returning to Miami I immediately contacted Ernie Busker, owner of Palms Of Hallandale. The Palms Of Hallandale was a famous black nightclub that booked many major R&B acts such as Louis Jordon and Wynonie Harris on the weekends. Busker used to consult with me at the time about any new acts that were breaking out so he could get them at a reduced price. I told Busker about James Brown & The Famous Flames and stated that James alone would soon probably become a major R&B artist. I also informed Busker that their record was starting to break out nationally. Busker brought in James Brown & The Famous Flames the following weekend at a very low price and James Brown & The Famous Flames brought the roof down. Their explosive show stunned the audience members. James Brown went onto become a living legend and James and I have remained close friends all these years.
James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, called me his Godfather. I have been with James Brown since the beginning of Please, Please, Please, as a mentor and as a friend. In the early 90s, we formed the Brownstone record label and put out several releases over the years. James sent me a number of tracks to be released and tested on the Brownstone label. After James’ sudden death, I felt it was important to put out this CD, James Brown A Family Affair, in honor of James’ memory, to release these tracks to the world as James Brown would have wanted. This collection includes material that he sent me from himself and his two daughters, Yamma Brown and Venisha Brown. To Order: Click the RED “Add To Cart” button below. Then, proceed to checkout.
Smokin’ & Drinkin’
Stay With Me
Honky Tonk Sample
This album was recorded by Henry Stone in the midst of the disco era. Stone felt that James Brown needed a little boost in his career and went to Atlanta to produce this album, along with James Brown. The album was originally released on LP and Stone felt it should be remastered digitally and released for download and on CD so that it could be available to James Brown fans around the world.
“Back together again, the greatest, the original International Brothers. The album proves that brothers can be brothers in spirit other than brothers in color. We proved that soul is everybody. God Bless, James Brown” To Order: Click the RED “Add To Cart” button below. Then, proceed to checkout.
1) Cramp Your Style – All the People
2) Masterpiece – Clarence Reid
3) Save Me – James Knight
4) Funk On Ahh Roll – James Brown
5) I Like My Birdie – Leno Phillips
6) Keep It Up – Milton Wright
7) Stony Island Band – Stony Island Band
8) Come On Baby – Beginning of the End
9) 90% of Me is You – Vanessa Kendrick
10) Love Was Really Meant For You – Wizdom
11) Magician Man – Fats Gallon
12) Life Is A Beautiful Thing – Fats Gallon
13) My Uncle Funky – Chocolateclay
Video – “Cramp Your Style” by All The People
All The People ~ This is one of the best tracks from Robert “Miami” Moore. Cramp Your Style is a great funk track with a sound that hits you right from the start.
Clarence Reid ~ During the 60s and 70s, Clarence Reid, singer, songwriter, talent scout, and producer for Henry Stone’s labels, was involved in just about every recording that came out of Stone’s Hialeah-based Upstairs studio. Masterpiece is a heartfelt and poignant performance in which Reid brings a rich, vocal quality.
James Knight and the Butlers ~ James Knight is also called The Black Knight. He leads a tight combo with a raw, funky sound. You can hear Knight’s guitar leading the combo with great horns backing him up.
James Brown ~ James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, called Henry Stone his Godfather. Stone and Brown have been close friends since the beginning of Please, Please, Please. They formed the BrownStone record label and put out several releases over the years, including this great funky track, Funk On Ahh Roll.
Leno Phillips ~ Excellent funk from the Miami scene of the 70s, I Like My Birdie has a powerful, fast groove that you can feel right from the start.
Milton Wright ~ Milton Wright’s rare groove Keep It Up is one of the most unique soul songs of its generation. A grooving track with just a hint of funk and a deeply smooth vocal and some original rhythms that really make it special.
Stony Island Band ~ They took their name from the southside Chicago neighborhood that they grew up in. This track, that they named after the band, is late 70s funky soul with a male lead vocal, call-and-response chorus and a heavy rhythm lead by the guitars.
The Beginning of the End ~ This group from the Bahamas took the best part of the island rhythms and used them to create a whole new style of funk, with a bouncy sound that comes from some incredible guitar, bass and drums.
Vanessa Kendrick ~ The original version of this hot Gwen McCrae track, 90% Of Me Is You, the music is similar, heavy beats and lush strings, but the vocal is very different, smooth and sultry, almost ballad-like. If you are a fan of the cover, check out this original.
Wizdom ~ The late, great Anthony “Tony” Ward, lead guitarist on Wizdom, also played lead guitar on Anita Ward’s Ring My Bell. Tony was highly hyper and he would dance constantly while onstage. Tony’s band featured Walt Harris on lead vocals and drums. A great rare sweet, funky soul gem.
Fats Gallon ~ Fats Gallon, the son of well-known radio DJ “Wildman Steve”, has been on the road as a drummer, writer, arranger, and producer since he was 17. He has played for legendary groups such as Latimore, The Dells, Sly Stone, Betty Wright and many more. His solo tracks combine great energy with a wildly funky beat.
Chocolateclay ~Great Miami style Funk from the collaboration of George “Chocolate” Perry and Clay Cropper. To Order: Click the RED “Add To Cart” button below. Then, proceed to checkout.