Bluenote Bob Perry On Working at Tone Distributors: “I Showed Duane Allman The Old Blues Shit”

“I worked for Henry Stone from 1968 to about 1971 or ’72, in the warehouse, then sales, then promotions. First in Miami and then all of Florida. I’m from Maine. I moved to Miami when I was twenty years old. When I first got here, I took the worst fucking job in my life. At JC Penney. I never did have a lot of jobs. Only a handful. But that was the worst. I lived in the Biscayne Breeze Trailer Park; in a 1948 Star fuckin trailer eight feet wide and fifty feet long. I had a roommate from Belize that I charged $50 a month to stay there, and it cost me $50 a month rent. So I was getting paid $50 a month to live in Miami. One day I went to work at JC Penney’s and quit. They told me, “We were gonna put you in rugs.”

I said, “Fuck the rugs. I’m gonna go rock to the funk.”

I didn’t give a shit about no fuckin rugs. I had gotten a call from Dave Benjamin at Tone Distributors asking when I could start.

So I got a job pulling orders in the warehouse. And as Dave is walking me through showing me the place, I already knew all the labels. I was a collector. I had seen Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf. I knew all the blues from Chess and who produced the records, and what color labels they had, and that’s the kind of guy I was and still am. Dave was impressed because we carried all those labels like Chess, Checker, Cadet, Argo, Bluesway, Duke, Peacock. All that shit. All the blues and soul. I was in fucking Heaven. Late that afternoon Henry walked by with his mutton chops, just a big figure I had looked up to and read about for what he had done with Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker. Dave said, “Here’s Bob, he just came in from Maine.”

Henry said, “Oh, ok, do good, kid.” Somethin short like that. No conversation. Later as I worked there we would talk at the end of the day; be sitting in the office and Henry would be there, and Leonard Chess would be there. Or Jerry Wexler. Or Syd Nathan. Or James Brown. Oh my God. I couldn’t fuckin believe it. To see all these giants milling about the warehouse. It was an exciting fucking time.

We had three big buildings, three warehouses together. We probably had a good seventy five or eighty people working there, from the warehouse to sales, promotions, musicians. Clarence Reid was milling about. This is before KC and Rick Finch. It was Steve Alaimo. Brad Shapiro.

The Allman Brothers would show up. They recorded “Melissa” there for the Duane and Gregg album on Henry’s BOLD Records label. BOLD 301.

I used to take Duane Allman through the warehouse and show him the old Delta blues shit like Charlie Patton and Blind Willie McTell on Prestige. He was the guy that did the Live at The Fillmore, “Wake up mama, turn your lamp down low…”

Duane loved those guys and their slide guitar. There was so much stuff to listen to in there. We carried lines of like fifty or sixty different labels. I didn’t do inventory, but between the 45’s, LP’s, reels of tape, eight tracks, and cassettes, there had to be over a million pieces in there.

My favorite Miami label is Chart Records. I love Chart. I’ve still got the 78s.

My favorite Miami artist is Betty Wright. I promoted and worked all those early records of hers. Such a great talent.”


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