Drake may be looking for his “Hotline Bling,” but Timmy Thomas is still the king.
Timmy’s historic record “Why Can’t We Live Together” has sold over ten million vinyl copies worldwide, went number three on the pop charts, might be the first hit song to use electric organ with a drum machine, established Henry Stone’s TK Productions as the biggest independent music company in the world, and became South Africa’s anti-apartheid rallying cry, and then Nelson Mandela’s official song for inauguration as president.
Timmy Thomas was born in Evansville, Indiana. He later moved to Memphis, and worked as a school administrator and a session musician for Booker T. & the M.G.’s. A job offer from Florida Memorial College led him to Miami, where he followed his dreams and opened a nightclub in an old Miami Beach hotel on 46th and Collins.
The internet is blowing up today with the release of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” music video. But did you know it’s based on a heavy sample of Timmy Thomas’s Glades Records platinum hit from 1972 “Why Can’t We Live Together?”
That’s the crucial cut that founded T.K. Productions as the parent company for a slew of independent record labels founded by Henry Stone when he found out that Atlantic Records would merge with Warner and Elektra to form WEA and conduct their own distribution.
Henry Stone would have leased up his release to Atlantic for national distribution but decided to manufacture, market, promote, and distribute it himself instead. He ended up with a million seller on his hands right out of the gate. And in fact, the song became a #1 chart topper around the world in addition to becoming the official rallying cry for an apartheid free South Africa.
Timmy Thomas is a legend in the world of music and his simple and heartfelt tribute to peace and love is a classic whose power shall never falter. And that’s why Drake is on it.
“Sitting one day in my office at Tone Distributors, I received a phone call from Walter Hoffa’s office. Walter was a top New York lawyer at that time who represented the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and other major acts from Europe. Upon answering my phone call, a young attorney from Hoffa’s office got on the phone and introduced himself to me as Mr Allen Grubman. He said he was representing a group called The Beginning of The End who at the time had a top 5 record (Funky Nassau). It was on the Alston label, which I owned and the record was distributed by Atlantic. Mr Grubman stated that the contract that I had with the group should be broken. At that time I asked mr Grubman if he knew who he was talking to. And told him that the contract that i had was with Atlantic and a very strong contract, and being very angry at this conversation I threatened to get on the next plane and kick his ass.
The phone hung up very quickly and about 10 minutes later I received a phone call from Walter Hoffa, who before becoming a lawyer was promo man for MGM Records. So I had some form of relationship with Walter and he said “What did you do to one of my new attorneys?” And I told him I didn’t like his attitude, he had a snotty New York attitude and didn’t know what he was talking about. By the way the contract was never broken. It was a firm and good contract.
About 4 weeks later I called Walter due to circumstances and major changes in the record industry. The changes being Atlantic, Warner Bros, Elektra were gonna form their own distribution network. Consequently I would lose distribution of my own Alston label, so I decided to do my own manufacturing and distribution.
I wanted Walter and his firm to represent me. He said he would do so and I planned to meet him in New York. I arrived in New York at Laguardia airport and a young smiling Jewish gentleman by the name of Allen Grubman was there to pick me up. Walter had sent him to pick me up. Of course upon meeting him I took to his New York Allen Grubman ways. He drove me to Walter’s office. On the way to Walter’s office he told me he had just gotten out of law school and went knocking on doors on 57th street and was hired by Walter Hoffa’s firm. Not knowing a lot about the music business at the time, and just getting into law from being a school teacher, Allen was eager to get as much knowledge as he could about the music industry. After our initial incident we seemed to have a strong rapport with one another and this was the beginning of a very long business and personal relationship. Walter Hoffa asked me if i would mind if he assigned Allen as my lawyer and I though that was a great idea, because Walter was a very busy attorney. This way I had a young attorney with his full attention on my work.
As in my past performances of hit records, I called Allen at Walter’s office and told him I had a hit record breaking big in South Florida and I’d meet him in New York to try and make a foreign deal because I was gonna distribute this record myself. The record was “Why Cant We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas. I arrived in New York a few days later and with Allen we started negotiating with Polygram Records and we made a deal with Polygram the following day. At the time while I was in New York I had some deals with Morris Levy where Morris owed me some money for some of my publishing. I took Allen by the arm and said “Come with me to Roulette Records, I have to pick up some money.” I think that was Allen’s first experience of meeting Morris Levy. After talking to Morris and negotiating with Morris he agreed to pay me $10,000 in cash for what was owed at the time. Upon walking out of the office Allen said, “What a guy. What a deal.” I handed Allen $1,000 and said, “Here’s your 10% lawyers fee.” The money was for a weird deal with “Mashed Potatoes,” some kind of a ripoff with the “Peppermint Twist” yknow.”
Check out this classic article from the Henry Stone archives that includes interviews with platinum selling Timmy Thomas, Betty Wright, and Henry Stone too. In the final paragraph of the photo, the quote reads, “Miami is the funk capital of the world.” It was then, it is now, and it always will be. So stay tuned to more hits from Henry Stone Music Inc. and thanks for reading.
01 Timmy Thomas – Africano
02 Universal Love – Moon Ride
03 Imperials – I Just Wanna Be Your Lovin’ Man
04 Lew Kirton – Heaven In The Afternoon
05 King Tutt – Keep On
06 Milton Wright – Ooh Ooh Ooh I Like It
07 Jo Bisso – Love Somebody
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On October 12, 2013, at the newly renovated Milander Performance Center, over 1200 disco fans gathered for one big night of the Miami Disco Fever Reunion! Organized by long-time promoter Charlie Rodriguez and hosted by popular radio DJ Leo Vela, the night featured performances from some of the biggest names in disco, including George McCrae, Timmy Thomas, Jimmy ‘Bo’ Horne, as well as a KC and the Sunshine Band tribute by the Old Skool Gang.
Henry Stone, the legendary founder of TK Records and many other labels, received a proclamation from the Mayor of the City of Hialeah, Carlos Hernandez. Mayor Hernandez is himself a big fan of TK Records and joined in with the people who packed the dance floor throughout the night. The day of October 12, 2013 was proclaimed as the official TK Records Day in Hialeah.
Henry Stone’s labels throughout the 1970s cranked out hundreds of hot tracks and included over 25 gold and platinum records, all from a little studio in the upstairs of his distributor warehouse in Hialeah. Some of his biggest acts included George McCrae on TK Records, KC and the Sunshine Band on on TK Records, Latimore on Glades, Bobby Caldwell on Clouds, Gwen McCrae on Cat, Foxy on on Dash, Jimmy “Bo” Horne on Sunshine Sound, Anita Ward on Juana, Timmy Thomas on Glades, Betty Wright on Alston, T-Connection on Dash, Peter Brown on Drive and too many more to list. Dozens of artists passed through his doors throughout his 60+ years in the music business and Henry’s impact on both the music and the business has been felt throughout the world.
The Miami Disco Fever Reunion on October 12, 2013 was a fitting tribute to a man who has done so much for the music business.