RIP Henry Stone, King of Independent Records, Dead at 93
Jacob Katel Henry Stone, dancing his ass off at age 92, high above Biscayne Bay at Henry Stone Music headquarters, 2013
Henry Stone, king of the record business, passed away peacefully August 7, 2014, in Miami.
Throughout almost 80 years of wildly prolific musical activity, the 93-year-old had a hand in every aspect of the music business and was a true pioneer of independent manufacturing, promotion, and distribution.
In the 1970s, he ran the biggest independent record company in the world, TK Productions, responsible for the world's first global disco hit, George McCrae's genre-defining "Rock Your Baby," penned by the leaders of his biggest act ever, KC & the Sunshine Band. And lest anyone say otherwise, he made many artists very rich, always paid what he owed, and is held in high esteem by 90 percent of everybody who ever worked with him.
At the same time, he ran one of the biggest distribution networks in the country, his own Tone Distributors. At its height, his organization occupied a full city block and and 18,000-square-foot warehouse in Hialeah and employed more than a hundred people at a time, from shipping clerks to radio promoters, engineers, producers, songwriters, and many more.
His life was dedicated to destroying color lines in music by making so called "black records" popular with white audiences. And he was among the first in the American music business to market directly to Latin American youths with the freestyle genre of the early 1980s.
Million-seller plaque for Peter Brown's "Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me?"
He founded more than 100 labels, manufactured thousands of releases, and sold more than 100 million records around the world. It sounds made up, but it's true.
Miami Herald article about Henry Stone on the wall of his headquarters.
He was a friend, associate, and confidante to some of the biggest names in music, including James Brown and Isaac Hayes.
Photo via Henry Stone Music James Brown in Hialeah at Henry Stone's TK Disco office, where he and his posse would drink cognac and talk records.
Henry Stone's Sherlyn Publishing catalog is currently held by EMI and generates millions of dollars yearly.
He was the prototypical "record man," a charismatic, fast-talking, quick-thinking hustler who took no guff and always knew a way to make a buck.
Via Miami Times newspaper One of Henry Stone's favorite DJs of all time was Milton "Butterball" Smith, a longtime associate who Stone used to say would "sit in the glass radio booth for WMBM in Overtown and watch the pretty little hairy-leg girls walk by."
He was not a royalty-thieving ne'er-do-well, but he was an acute businessman who always made sure that contracts and publishing agreements were written in his favor.
See Also: TK Records Reunites for Henry Stone Documentary With George McCrae, Timmy Thomas, Latimore, Little Beaver, and Others