Ray Charles

Apr 112016

“I don’t know if you’re aware of this in the story, I don’t know if it means anything to you, but it should. A good part of my career down here in Florida has been, I distributed every independent label, like Atlantic, and Warner Brothers, and all those labels….Scepter, Wand, Fire, Fury, Specialty, Bullet, Savoy, Aladdin, Gee, End, Gone, Roulette, Old Town, Imperial, National, Jubilee practically all of em’ yknow. There was usually about a hundred little labels at a time. And most of em’ would have one hit and then go bust. Are you familiar with that? The distribution that I had down here, Tone Distributing.

Distribution is everything, man. It really is. And you gotta spend a buck to make a buck. You can’t have it all.

I remember a guy named Raoul Shapiro. He ran the big one stop during the juke box era. There was a one stop where all the juke box operators used to come and pick up their records. Raoul Shapiro, that was Eddie Shaw’s father. Eddie was my engineer for the Ray Charles records I cut. He was my right hand man. His father Raoul Shapiro used to write some articles for Billboard Magazine.

Raoul had his big one-stop on 36th street, somewhere around there, closer to Miami Avenue. They used to carry all the records: Decca, Columbia, RCA and then all the independents. I’m the one who sold him all the independent stuff, yknow, cause I distributed all the independent records.

I even had the Latin American music…stuff from Cuba. My friend George Goldner used to go to Cuba and bring the records back. He had a label called Tico Records. Just sort of ethnic type music that didn’t do too well.

I was doing everything. If it was records, I was doing it. I was the record man here in Florida. I used to distribute all those independent records.”


©Jacob Katel and HenryStoneMusic Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Mar 302016


“I distributed ABC Paramount Records and I was very very close with Larry Newton, who was Vice President and ran the company along with Sam Clarke. Larry and I were very very close cause I was his distributor. I sold his records. I made him money. He made me money. It was great. I loved distributing cause that’s how I made my bread, dig?

One day, I was riding up LeJeune Road on my way to my office in Hialeah when I got a call. I actually had one of the first car phones ever made. It was a big phone and I was on the phone all the time, all these things happening around me, so, I get this phone call from Larry Newton. He used to call me Hendry.

He said, “Hendry, you ever hear Ray Charles?”

I say, “What are you outta your fuckin mind?”

He ‘s like, “I heard of him, but what? Is he great? I’m here with Joe Glaser. He said Ray’s contract is up with Atlantic Records. Should I sign him?”

I said, “Get a fuckin pen right now and sign him immediately!!!”

Of course, ABC Paramount signed Ray Charles and the first record he puts out I ordered 26,000 copies. It was, ” I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

I busted that motherfucker wide open. It’s the truth, man, this is what happened, this is what I did. I did these things. They know.

I was a big distributor. To be in that business, man, a lot of guys start up a record company, have a hit, and go out of business. I had a good living as a distributor, but I still loved to make records. But I still had to keep everything going, and that’s why all my distribution business I called “Other People’s Money.” Cause other people were paying for the pressings, the promotion, and everything else.

Meanwhile, in my free time, instead of playing golf I made records. I was a 24-7 guy. That’s what I did.”


©Jacob Katel and HenryStoneMusic Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Mar 292016


“Eddie Shaw, he worked for me. He was the original engineer on the Ray Charles session with me. He was like my right hand man at the time. He worked in my little warehouse on Flagler street. He engineered. He helped with my distribution business.

Back not too long ago, I was having trouble with the Ray Charles Estate, and they wanted to try to get all his masters back yknow. So they approached me and they said that Ray Charles owned those masters. I had cut four sides with him back in circa 1950 or 51 for my Rockin’ Records label when he was just another singer nobody knew about.

I says, “Ya kiddin’? We own those masters.”

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We went to court and we were awarded the judgement. We won the case. We own the masters. We have it on our website. That’s when we re-found Ed Shaw cause he was in the sessions. He was living up in Ocala someplace. We never got together except by phone and computer, but he was a really nice guy.

He was still recording. He did that record with the Indians from Ocala. We had it on our website. He worked in the flea market up there, and had like a little radio show. I remember he was all excited about CD Baby. Eddie Shaw, man, all these names coming up like. Damn. So many memories.”


©HenryStoneMusic Inc. and Jacob Katel. All Rights Reserved

Mar 152016

“My very first distribution company in Florida was  Seminole Record Distributors. That’s when I had my own warehouse on Flagler Street. I remember borrowing some money for a down payment.

It wasn’t that big of a warehouse. But it wasn’t too small. Bout 1000 square feet. First warehouse on Flagler Street. And in the back I had my piano there and drums and maybe an Ampex recording machine that I recorded Ray Charles and some of the gospel stuff on.

After that I closed it down and went to go work with King Records for a short time with my DeLuxe label. Then when I left Deluxe in 1956 I opened up a warehouse on SW 8th St and 12th Avenue. They just took the building down.

I know there was a little liquor store on the corner, and about three doors down the block I had my little warehouse, and in the back of that one I recorded my Chart Records in 1956 or 57.

From there I moved to NW 47 st and 2nd Ave.

It was a bigger warehouse cause I started to get more lines of more records yaknow.

From there I hadda get a bigger place cause I had records comin’ off the rafters yaknow. And that’s when I built my big warehouse in Hialeah, bout 18,000 square feet. And actually I remember my first big shipping table, yknow like a real big shipping table. Actually the guy that built it for me was DJ Bob Green’s father, he was a carpenter.”


©Jake Katel and HenryStoneMusic Inc.

Feb 122016

“My first studio was here in Miami back in 1948 on Flagler street, first little funky studio. Actually it was my distributing company where I had a piano and a tape machine in the back.

Who’d I record there?

A guy by the name of Ray Charles.

I knew about him from when I was working up in Jacksonville. People were talking about this kid Ray Charles, this piano player that went to St Augustine School For The Blind.

Sam Cooke ended up introducing me to him at the Mary Elizabeth Hotel in Overtown.

I was one of the few white people they let into Overtown at that time without people sayin’, “Hey, man, you don’t belong here.” Cause they knew I was there for business.

I was the record man yknow.

I was always into black music, so that was where I went to find talent to make records

I was pretty young, I was never a big drinker back then, and I didn’t do any dope so, I kept it cool with everybody and they kept it cool with me. Overtown was great.

It wasn’t too ghettoish.

I used to hang out in the Harlem Square with Stu Goldman and over at the Sir John Knight Beat. I think it was built after the Harlem Square. When they put the pool in , wow that was a place man yknow.

That’s where Dinah Washingotn used to play. Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis used to come down here and stay there.

I was building up my first little distribution company, hustling, and I kept a drum set, a piano, a microphone, and a little Ampex tape machine in the back of my warehouse where I would cut sides on all kinds of artists like the blues singer W.C. Baker, and the fiddle player Ervin Rouse who wrote the “Orange Blossom Special” that Johnny Cash made so famous.

It was a great time.”

©HenryStoneMusic Inc. and Jacob Katel. All Rights Reserved

Aug 072013

Ray Charles in 1968. Photo by Eric Koch via Wikimedia Commons

Henry Stone: My first studio here in Miami was back in 1948 or ’49 on Flagler street, first little funky studio. Actually it was the warehouse for my first distributing company where I had a piano and a tape machine in the back

Who’d you record there?

Henry Stone: A guy by the name of Ray Charles. I heard abut Ray when I was in Jacksonville, FL. He was at the school for the blind in St Augustine. I heard about him, and that he was very, very good. I guess he left and went to California, but in about 1949 he came down to Miami to do a gig. I met him at the Mary Elizabeth Hotel in Overtown. I hadda go see Sam Cooke, who was a very good friend of mine because I’d been distributing his records, and Sam introduced me to Ray at the bar.

I said “Hey, I heard about you up in Jacksonville, man. I heard you’re pretty cool.”

He said “Great, I wanna cut some sides. I need some bread.”

I says “Come on over. I got a studio in the back of my distribution place on Flagler Street.”

So he came over to the studio in the back of my warehouse and we cut 4 sides. When Ray came in he started singing just like Nat King Cole.

I said, “Hey, Ray I want you to sing some blues man, cause I’m more into the blues,” I said, “I know you can do a blues song, man.”

So we did “St. Pete Florida Blues,” a song called “Walkin And Talkin,” and a couple other things. I gave him $200 and, I feel I can say this now that the movie about him came out, he took the money and immediately bought some heroin.

I put the sides out on my Rockin’ label, and I leased a couple tracks to my buddy Bob Shad for his Sittin’ In With label, and yaknow, they did alright, nothin’ special. You gotta remember, at that time he was just another musician. He wasn’t yet the Ray Charles like you know him today.

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After that, I had this relationship with him through the years yaknow as his distributor. I broke all his records here in Florida. And I was almost instrumental in putting him on Atlantic Records. I say almost because there’s no documents of it, but Jerry Wexler (from Atlantic) was very hip, and he knew that I knew Ray Charles.

He called me up one day and said, “Hey, Henry we’re looking for Ray Charles. We’d like to record him. You know how to find him?”

I said, “Last I knew of him he was in St Pete.”

So Jerry contacted Ray Charles, Atlantic Records signed him, and the rest is history.”


©Jake Katel and Henry Stone Music Inc. No unauthorized reproduction. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED