Otis Williams and The Charms – Henry Stone’s First Million Selling Record “Hearts of Stone”

In 1953 or 54′, Henry Stone heard a group of youngsters doo-wopping on a street corner in Cincinnati, signed them to a DeLuxe Records contract, found the right song for them to cover, and put them on tape at the King Records studios in the heart of the Queen City.

He named the group Otis Williams and The Charms, had Syd Nathan press up stacks of “Deejay Copies,” and hit the road in his Buick with a trunk full of sides, and a cash budget for bribing the disc jockeys at white music radio stations all over the country to play “Hearts of Stone.”

One thing about radio DJ’s, it was true then, and it’s true now..they have no problem taking goodies for favors. Henry Stone realized this early, and used it to his advantage to get the record played. The fact that he bribed jockeys at white radio stations is what propelled the group’s crossover success. Now, if the song was no good, and people didn’t like it, this strategy would not have worked. As Henry Stone said, “If the record is no good, you can put all the money in the world behind it and it’s gonna go away.” So called “hit songs” are not determined by marketing budgets, but by audience reaction.

Here is a page from a 1954 issue of Cash Box showing the direct numeric proof of the record moving up the charts around the country. “Hearts Of Stone” in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Nashville, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and St. Louis on the top ten lists for each city as determined by airplay.

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