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.
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.