James Brown and Henry Stone, buddies and pals
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.
Shop for James Brown’s “Family Affair” on Henry Stone Music
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.
Shop for James Brown’s “Soul Syndrome” on Henry Stone Music
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.
James Brown, man, what a guy.