“Milton “Butterball” Smith was the biggest DJ down here as far as I’m concerned, but King Coleman was very strong too. Y’know why he was so strong? He used to give the numbers on the air. Bolita. The numbers. When he broadcast on the radio, he used to give the numbers out, man, street lottery, for whoever ran it, the gangsters.
And then of course, I put him on a hit record, and after that he quit the radio and tried to make it as an artist.
Going into the 60s James Brown came down, man, with the whole band and got beat out of a date. So I says to James, “Come on in the studio. I saw a gig where you did somethin called Mashed Potatoes.”
The Federal Agents used to come look through my books trying to bust me for something. I don’t know what. They used to do the same thing to James Brown when they tried to bust him. But they didn’t. Then they went after his manager, Charles Bobbit. In fact, I got him off that. I went to the Grand Jury in Atlanta and testified when they were tryin’ to bust Bobbit. They had me in the Grand Jury and I said, “No, I never gave this guy anything.” I said, “I paid him for certain things, but I never gave him any money….to give to disc jockeys.” But anyway, I got him off. And he never forgot it.
Twenty years later or so I got a call from him. He says, “Henry, you gotta do me a favor.”
I says, “Whattaya want me to do man?”
At that time he was representing…he had a period of about 5 or 6 years between James Brown where he did his own thing, cause while he was with James in Africa, Charles met the King of the Congo, or someplace, and his son wanted to be a singer. The King figured that if Bobbit was good enough for James Brown then he must be good, and so, he got hired and he managed this kid.
Anyway, I get a call one day and Charles Bobbit says, “Henry, I wanna use your studio. I wanna record Prince so and so.”
So I sez, “Sure man, c’mon down.”
He brought the kid to the studio, recorded him, and he gave me $20,000 dollars. I said, “What the hell’s that for?” He says, “It’s payback man. I didn’t forget what you did for me. This is all oil money. It’s all the prince’s money.” I still talk to Charles Bobbit. Every once in a while he calls me. He was with James Brown when he died, and I was one of the first guys he called when he passed away. Charles Bobbit. Terrific guy. He worked hard, man. For James Brown.”
“Al Sharpton was a promotion man for James Brown. He was doin somethin…promotion…or he was like, uh, hangin out. Some of these guys, they’re like hangeronners yaknow, but let’s say I give him the benefit of the doubt that he did some actual promotion for him. That’s when I first met him, through James Brown. And through the years I met him a couple times.
I met him, let’s see….I was on a plane with my lawyer goin up to see Morris Levy cause I was getting ready to split the companies and everything, and Morris was goin’ to Australia before he got busted. And I remember at the airport I hear someone screaming “Henry Stone!!!”
He comes running over and it was Al Sharpton, he says, “Henry, man, I haven’t seen ya in years, c’mere I want you to meet somebody.”
He grabs me by the hand and introduces me to Don King. And he says to Don, “This is James Brown’s man, he’s the only white man you should trust.” Now, Don King, he trusts a lot of white men. He made a lot of money for white people on that boxing shit. Big hustla man, great hustla.
And then I saw Al Sharpton at James Brown’s funeral too. He was glad to see me. And then about a week later we had a big thing here at the Hard Rock Casino, sort of all the James Brown people came down, all those friends and buddies, Al Sharpton, Charles Bobbit, and I think Don King was there too promoting a fight. I remember after the fight we all went into the VIP room and had dinner together with Sharpton. I think that’s when my son Joe met Al Sharpton.”
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.
“Jerry Wexler’s son’s in the music business. I hear about him every once in a while. He was a producer in the bidness yaknow. So here’s a story: The guy from Island Records, Chris Blackwell, wanted to sign James Brown and record him. So he got a contract on James, and sent him on down to Nassau to record with that group there, that great rhythm section in Nassau at the studio there. And he hired Paul Wexler, when he was pretty young, to produce the session yaknow. So bout 2 or 3 days later I get a frantic call from Jerry Wexler,
“Henry! Help. Help.”
I say, “What’s the problem man?”
He says, “James is crucifying my kid man, help!”
He says, “Please call James Brown and tell him to back off. That’s my kid yaknow.”
But you know who the only white man ever allowed in the studio with James Brown was? Me. Henry Stone. But that’s where I belonged.
James ended up throwing Paul out of the studio by the scruff of his neck and sending him back to New York.
James said, “I’ll do my own session man!”
He always knew what he wanted. That’s what he did.”
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.