HENRY STONE’S-MIAMI SOUND.

HENRY STONE’S-MIAMI SOUND.

Henry Stone was a record man. That was the case since he founded his first record labels in 1952. Rockin’ and Glory were the first over over 100 record labels Henry Stone founded. These labels sold over 100 million copies. The most famous, and successful of these labels was T.K. Records, which is celebrated on Henry Stone’s Miami-Sound which was released on 29th June 2015, on the Edinburgh based label, Athens Of The North.

Henry Stone’s Miami-Sound is described as “The Record Man’s Funkiest 45s” on the cover. That is no word of a lie.  Not with contributions from Little Beaver, Milton Wright, Lynn Collins, Wildflowers, Funky Nassau, Oceanliners and T-Connection. In an instant, these dance floor fillers take the listener back to Miami in the seventies when T.K. Records had been transformed from one of the city’s up-and-coming labels, to one of its leading lights. 

For any aspiring musician or band in Miami, T.K. Records was the label they wanted to sign to. That was where hit records were made, and dreams came true. T.K. Records was the latest label founded my serial musical entrepreneur, Henry Stone. The boy from the Bronx had come a long way. Now, Henry Stones was an embodiment of the American dream. 

Henry Stone was born on June 3rd 1921, in the Bronx, New York. By the time he was a teenager, Henry Stone was living in an orphanage in Pleasantville, New York. That’s where Henry learnt to play the trumpet. This was his introduction to music.

In 1943,  Henry Stone joined the U.S. Army.  He was soon playing in the racially integrated band. That was where Henry first heard R&B music. He was hooked. So much so, that when he was discharged from the army in 1947, he headed to Los Angeles, looking for a job in the music industry.

Having made the journey to L.A., Henry Stone  soon found a job within the music industry. His first job was in sales and promotion with Jewel Records. This was the opening Henry Stone had been looking for.  From there, Henry moved to Modern Records, where he first encountered the Bihari brothers. They too, would play an important part in the development of the modern record industry. Especially with Henry Stone taking care of sales and promotion. This only lasted for a year, before Henry was on the move again.

This time, Henry Stone made his way to Miami, Florida, the city that would become his home. Quickly, Henry had realised that he wasn’t going to get rich working for someone else. So, having learnt how the music industry worked, decided to setup his own distribution company Seminole in Miami. Seminole was just the first part of Henry’s burgeoning musical empire. 

Soon, he opened the Crystal recording studio. Crystal wasn’t just used by local musicians. In 1951, Ray Charles was in Miami. This was before he found fame and fortune. Ray Charles was looking for a studio to cut St. Pete Florida Blues. Someone suggested the Crystal recording studio. So Henry found himself recording the man who many would later call The Genius. The pair would later renew their acquaintance. By then, Ray Charles would’ve become one of the biggest names in R&B; while Henry Stone’s musical empire would’ve grown.

The expansion of Henry Stone’s musical empire began in 1952. That’s when he founded his first two labels. Rockin’ was a blues label; while Glory was a gospel label. Quickly, both labels were enjoying a degree of success. One of Henry’s biggest success was The Charms’ single Hearts Of Stone. Henry released the single on King’s DeLuxe label. It gave Henry Stone his first U.S. R&B single. However, the next time Henry Stone had a number one single, he would own the label. Before that, Henry’s musical empire was about to expand.

The one thing that Henry Stone’s musical empire didn’t have, was a publishing company. So in 1955, Henry rectified this. He founded  his first publishing companies. At the same time, Henry founded a number of record labels. This included the Chart and Dade labels. They signed a number of local blues musicians. The next company Henry next founded Tru-Tone, would become one of the most successful of his career.

Tru-Tone started life as a small record distributor. However, it quickly grew and eventually, was distributing for many of the independent labels. By then, Tru-Tone was called Tone Distribution, and was distributing Atlantic, Stax and Motown, three of soul’s most successful labels. Their records were distributed to the four corners of the globe by Tone Distribution. Essentially, this made Henry Stone one of the most powerful men in R&B. However, despite the success of Tone Distribution, Henry Stone was still record man at heart.

For most of the sixties, Henry Stone had concentrated his efforts on building up Tone Distribution. Deep down, Henry wanted to make records. So throughout the sixties, Henry still recorded R&B artists. He never enjoyed much success. This changed in 1971.

During 1971, Henry Stone recorded his first million selling hits This was Betty Wright’s Clean Up Woman. It was released on Steve Alaimo’s Alston label, and reached number six on the U.S. Billboard 100 and number two on the U.S. R&B charts. By the 30th December 1971, Clean Up Woman had sold a million copies, and was certified gold. Soon, one gold disc would become two. By then, Henry Stone had gone from distributor to label owner.

By 1972, Henry Stone had built Tone Distribution into one of America’s biggest distribution companies. One of his biggest clients was Atlantic Records. Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records was the bearer of bad news.

Atlantic Records was about to merge with Warner Bros. The newly merged company would distribute their own records. Tone Distribution had just lost one of its biggest clients. Rather than brood, Henry began thinking about the future.  

It didn’t take Henry Stone long to decide what the future held for him. His plans included two ventures. The first was manufacturing records. This would tie in with the second part of Henry’s plan, which saw him form a new record company T.K. Records.

Henry’s partner in T.K. Records was former teen idol Steve Alaimo who owned the Alston label. The pair named their new label after the initials of the studio’s recording console designer, Terry Kane. T.K. Records. Little did the pair realise, that one of the most successful record labels of seventies had been born. Success wasn’t far away.

Later in 1972, Timmy Thomas arrived at the newly founded T.K. Records with a demo a song he had written and recorded. Timmy took a song to T.K. Records. It was passed to T.K. Records  producer and partner Steve Alamos a copy of Why Can’t We Live Together?  As Steve listened to the song, Timmy explained it was only a demo. Steve’s first thought was to rerecord the song. Then he decided that he liked the understated, pared back sound. He explained to Timmy that he liked the single as it was. Now he and Henry Stone had to work on the release of Why Can’t We Live Together?

That didn’t take long. Henry saw the potential in Why Can’t We Live Together? They began working towards a release date  in late 1972. Why Can’t We Live Together was released on Glades, a label Henry Stone had founded when he setup Tru-Tone. Straight away, Why Can’t We Live Together began to climb the charts. Eventually, in early 1973 reached number three in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. By then, Why Can’t We Live Together had sold over two million copies and was certified platinum.  For Henry Stone, his decision to move from distribution to record company owner had been vindicated. This was just the start of the success that Henry Stone and T.K. Records would enjoy.

After the success of Why Can’t We Live Together, the final pieces in the T.K. Records’ jigsaw fell into place. They were both working in the background at T.K. Records. Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, both aspiring and talented musicians. When they arrived at T.K. Records, Harry and Richard were willing working unpaid. At first, they helped out behind the scenes. They were willing to do this in the hope that maybe, just maybe, they would be allowed to make music. 

What really interest Wayne and Harry was making music. They were talented musicians and songwriters, who played in local bands. Gradually, their persistence paid off. They worked as engineers and session musicians on many of T.K. Records’ sessions. Most of these sessions, which featured T.K. Records’ most successful artists, took place during the day. This meant that Wayne and Harry could make music “after hours.”

With the studio quiet in the evenings, Harry and Wayne set about making music. Eventually, they came up trumps with a song that caught the attention of Henry Stone. This was Blow Your Whistle, which in August 1973, was released by Harry and Wayne’s new group,  K.C. and The Sunshine Band. It had reached number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts. Sound Your Funky Horn was K.C. and The Sunshine Band’s sophomore single, released in January 1974. This gave them their second hit single, reaching number twenty-one in the US R&B Charts and number seventeen in the UK. T.K. Records had another successful act on their hands? However, when Harry and Richard penned Rock Your Baby, K.C. and The Sunshine Band was put on hold. 

Gwen McCrae was scheduled to cut Rock Your Baby for T.K. Records. Richard Finch and Harry Wayne Casey of KC and The Sunshine Band arrived had written Rock Your Baby. They had even laid down a backing track in just forty-five minutes. All that Gwen had to do was lay down a vocal. Her husband George, who had been trying to make a living as a singer, was going along to watch. However, for George the dream was over. He was fed up struggling to make ends meet, so had decided to head to college to study law enforcement. George was just whittling away the days until he headed to college. That’s why he planned to accompany his wife to the recording session. Everything was going to plan until Gwen phoned to say she was late and wasn’t going to make the session. George however, said he was happy to step in and replace his wife. It would be his swan-song before college.

When George arrived at the studio, she sung the song in two takes. After the session, Jerome Smith was paid $15 to add guitar. With a McCrae having recorded Rock Your Baby, pretty soon, George’s plans for a career in law enforcement would be a thing of the past.

Rock Your Baby was released by T.K. Records in April 1974, with the single entering at number ninety-three in the US R&B Charts. Even then George mustn’t have thought the song would change his life. Over the next seven weeks, Rock Your Baby rose up the chart, reaching number one in the US Billboard 100 in July 1974, spending three weeks there. The single also reached number one in the US R&B Charts, while reaching number one in over eighty countries worldwide. It became the song of the summer of 1974. For George this was the highlight of his career. However, for Harry and Wayne, this was just the start of the success they enjoyed at T.K. Records.   

Between 1974 and 1979, K.C. and The Sunshine Band released six albums, two of which were certified platinum and two which were certified triple-platinum. That’s not forgetting four number one singles in the US Billboard 100 with Get Down Tonight, That’s the Way (I Like It), (Shake, Shake, Shake), Shake Your Booty and I’m Your Boogie Man, plus four US R&B number one singles. Richard Finch and Harry Wayne Casey had the midas touch and would play their part in the rise and rise of T.K. Records, whose music is celebrated on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound.

While K.C. and The Sunshine Band were T.K. Records’ most successful act, Henry Stone’s label were releasing music that was funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly. Especially during the disco era. Indeed, some music historians believe George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby was the first disco record. Other music historians believe that the disco ball was rolling well before 1974. However, there’s much more to T.K. Records than disco. This includes the funky music on Athens Of The North’s new compilation, Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. The Edinburgh based label have released a fitting celebration of the funky music that T.K. Records released during their heyday.

Henry Stone’s Miami-Sound features a total of twenty tracks. This includes contributions from Little Beaver, Milton Wright, Lynn Collins, Wildflowers, Funky Nassau, Oceanliners and T-Connection. That’s just a tantalising taste of the music on Henry Stone’s Miami-Sound. There’s much more awaiting discovery. How about Jimmy “Bo” Horne, Leno Phillips, Robert Moore and Friday, Saturday and Sunday? These tracks are  described as “The Record Man’s Funkiest 45s” on the cover. That you’ll soon discover, as I pick some of the highlights, is no word of a lie. 

Opening Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound is Little Beaver’s Concrete Jungle. Surprisingly, it was just the B-Side of Little Beaver’s 1977 single One Of These Fools Have To Go. Concrete Jungle is funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly. It’s also timeless and would fill a dance-floor today. Originally, Concrete Jungle featured on Little Beaver’s 1976 album When Was The Last Time. This was the fourth and final album that he released on Cat, an imprint of T.K. Records. 

Before embarking upon a solo career, Ray Munnings was a member of The Beginning Of The End. His debut single was Opportunity Knockin,’ which was released on Alston Records in 1972. On the flip side was Sleep On, Dream On which was produced by Steve Alamo. It features an uber funky arrangement and a soulful, vocal powerhouse from Ray. It’s a real find and a welcome addition to Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound.

The same can be said of Wildflower’s You Knock Me Out. Wildflower were a female vocal group  who released four singles on Dash between 1975 and 1977.  Sunshine was their sophomore single, and was released in 1975. On the flip side, was the sultry, soulful sound of You Knock Me Out. It has everything you could want in a great song. Horns, harmonies, lush strings and a killer vocal, it’s all there. Why You Knock Me Out wasn’t chosen as a single seems a strange decision. At least it makes a welcome return on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound.

Leno Philips’ recording career amounts to just a trio of singles released between 1972 and 2006. The first of these was Confusion, which was released on Dash, an imprint of T.K. Records in 1972. It was written by Leno under his real name Phillip Leno Wright Sr. He arranged the track with William Hale, a.k.a. Little Beaver. William and percussionist Willie Clark produced this beautiful, slow, summery sounding ballad. 

Johnny K only released one single for  Drive, a subsidiary of T.K. Records. That was I Got Bills To Pay. It was arranged by Clarence Reid and produced by Willie Clarke. When it was released in 1972, I Got Bills To Pay passed record buyers by. Now it’s something of a rarity, an expensive rarity at that. Copies change hands for over £100. However, you can save yourself a lot of money by buying Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound where you can hear this funky, soulful, hidden gem, plus nineteen more.

Funky Nassau only ever released one single, but what a single it was, Bahama Soul Stew. It’s one of the best instrumentals of the early seventies. No wonder. It was produced by Arnold Albury, Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke and released on Drive in 1972. Forty-three years later, and this joyous and driving slab of gloriously funky music has stood the test of time.

Oceanliners were Betty Wright’s show band and featured Anthony Turner, Jerome Smith, Robert Johnson and Ronald Smith. Their sophomore single was the instrumental  Cutting Room (Hot Pants). It was released in 1972 on the Blue Candle label.  Cutting Room (Hot Pants) is one of the funkiest tracks on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. No wonder. It’s punctuated by stabs of dramatic, screaming horns, as Oceanliners enjoy the opportunity to kick loose, and make some funky music.

Brand New are another group who only released the one single. This was Thousand Years, which was released in 1976, by Du-Vern and distributed by T.K. Productions Inc. It’s a beautiful, laid-back and soulful ballad that’s another of the hidden gems on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound.

T-Connection were one of T.K. Records’ success stories. They released a quartet of albums between 1977 and 1979 on the Dash imprint. Do What Ya Wanna Do was the opening track from T-Connection’s 1977 album Magic. It was also released as a single on T.K. Disco, reaching number forty-six in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number fifteen in the U.S. R&B charts. Funky, soulful and dance-floor  friendly, it was what DJs, dancers and music lovers wanted in 1977.

My final choice from Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound is Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s There Must Be Something. This is another B-Side.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s There Must Be Something was tucked away on the B-Side of Potato Salad. Why? That’s the question I want the answer to. There Must Be Something surpasses the quality of Potato Salad by a long way. With a soul-baring, soulful vocal it’s guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings and is the perfect, and a beautiful way to close Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. It’s definitely a case of keeping the best until last.

So that’s the story of Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound, which was released by Edinburgh based label, Athens Of The North on 29th June 2015. It’s one of the best compilations of 2015 so far. That’s no exaggeration. There’s a reason for this. Compilers Ian Wright and Euan Fryer have dug deeper into the T.K. Records’ vaults than previous compilers. 

In doing so, they’ve eschewed the obvious and familiar. That’s no bad thing. Many of T.K. Records’ best known songs have been done to death. Now was the time to scratch below the surface. This meant forgotten releases and B-Sides. They’ve thrown up some glittering, hidden gems. This includes my favourite, Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s There Must Be Something. It’s a track I could never tire of its soulful delights. However, there’s much more to Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound than one track.

Each and every one of the twenty tracks on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound deserves its place on the compilation. It’s definitely a case of all killer, with no filler. Compilers Ian Wright and Euan Fryer are to be congratulated for the quality of music on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. They ensure that there’s something for everyone.

Whether you like your music funky, soulful or dance-floor friendly, then there’s something for you on Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. Familiar tracks and rarities rub shoulders on  Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound. They all have one thing in common…their quality. Henry Stone’s-Miami Sound oozes quality and soulfulness, and as the cover states, features “The Record Man’s Funkiest 45s.”

HENRY STONE’S-MIAMI SOUND.

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