Article ©Jacob Katel
At the time, there were no record stores, let alone ones selling independent music. If you wanted to buy a record, you might find one at a furniture store, but if you wanted some indie r&b like what the popular jump combos were playing in the clubs on Central Ave in downtown L.A., you might try a barbershop or a bus depot. For the most part, r&b records were consumed in public; at bars, restaurants, and any house where hookers timed their clients by the records on the juke. The records were mostly bought and sold between regional distributors and jukebox operators. The jukebox ops were always looking for hot new records to fill up the machines on their routes, and to generate coins in the cash box.
This was the birth of the modern American independent record business.
Henry Stone left L.A. in the late 1940’s and moved his wife and kids to Miami, FL. He was on the steps of the Dade County Courthouse, going to get his drivers license, when his old buddy Mike Collier showed up out of nowhere and asked him to sell a crate of records. Stone obliged, and that’s how he began distributing records in Florida.
Indie label 78rpm records are a crucial piece of history. Here are some of the labels Henry Stone distributed, was involved with, or had dealings with as found in the dustbin of history at Amoeba Records in L.A.
Federal Records was a subsidiary of Syd Nathan’s King Records empire out of Cincinnati, Ohio. King handled its own distribution. Syd Nathan set up regional sales offices all over the country. In Miami, his adopted brother Marvin “Falsie” Novak was the King Records branch manager. Stone was good friends with him and they even had offices next door to each other in the 1950s. Although Stone did not distribute King, they are important to mention because of their ahead-of-its-time vertical integration. King signed and recorded its own artists in its own studios, pressed its own records, printed and assembled its own sleeves, promoted and distributed its own products, and used its own publishing company to reap all forms of public performance royalties possible. Henry Stone called Syd Nathan “An early genius.”