“Henry Stone is the kingpin of the Florida recording industry, with his TK empire producing soul and disco -flavored hits which are international favorites. His Hialeah headquarters are a jumping place, as Billboard’s Miami area correspondent Sara Lane learned as she bird dogged Stone. This is her report: It’s late in the morning as Henry Stone drives up to his recording studio and warehouse, a sprawling one city block complex set in Hialeah. In his mid -50s, with a white goatee tidily trimmed and
white hair spilling down over his ears, Stone is nattily dressed in a maroon and white checked sportcoat, maroon trousers and a black shirt. It’s 11:30 and Stone steps out of his maroon and white late model Lincoln, pulling up aside other late model luxury cars. “How you feeling, George ?” he asks a young Cuban employee as he checks a box of records which are sitting on the bare concrete floor awaiting shipment. Stone picks up an invoice and glances at it, “They’re moving, huh? Hey, these orders look pretty good today.” Without waiting for a reply, he strikes a comic pose. “I gotta bless the records. What’ll the blessing be today, Catholic or Jewish? Send me a hit, Lord please.” The employees grin. Stone’s first stop is at his secretary Dina Downing’s office, tucked away between the recording studio and staff offices and warehouse. She hands him his mail and a stack of messages. On his way to his office, Stone greets vice president Steve Alaimo and Howard Smiley, general manager of TK, then hurries on, leading the way through a somewhat dilapidated entrance and hallway. The entire facility is undergoing much -needed renovations. The comparatively new 16 -track studio and reception area are tastefully furnished, done in favorite Florida decorator tones of oranges and browns in the reception area and blues and
greens in the control room and studio. It’s noon now but there’s no discussion of lunch hour. Stone eats one meal a day- dinner -so there are no long, drawn -out social and business lunches to interrupt his working schedule. Although he usually arrives at the office between 9 and 10 a.m., he’s accomplished a couple of hours of work at home before that, listening to new records and tunes and making phone calls. The door to Stone’s office remains open and all day long various staff personnel wander in and out. There seems to be no direction at TK, yet things get done. And if the overall operation appears to be haphazard, maybe it is. But it works. Stone keeps his finger on the pulse of all of TK’s many facilities- record manufacturing, publishing, distribution, promotion and publicity and a small artists management company. He is involved in all facets of his companies and while he may smile benignly over the top of his granny glasses, little escapes his notice. “I give my employees complete freedom to do their own thing … enough rope to hang themselves,” he chuckles. “So long as they produce what they’re supposed to produce, I leave ’em alone.” “Get me Katie,” Stone bellows into the intercom phone. Katie Kahras, coordinator of published product, appears within moments with a contract in her hand. Like most of Stone’s employees, she is young and clad in a T -shirt and dungarees. She hands him the contract, explaining: “I had to white out this part, is it okay ?” Stone nods, “Don’t worry about it, I’m having a new contract made up anyway. Make yourself a copy, Katie.” Smiley wanders in, takes a seat on the bar stool and says, “Henry, we’re coordinating an LP cover for Brother Walter Poner and he wants it to get out there before the convention.” “Any problem meeting the deadline?” asks Stone. With a shake of his head, Smiley indicates no. A sudden thought pops into Stone’s head and he looks at Howard “Have you heard the mix on the record Steve (Alaimo) is working on for Rocky Mizell, I like the kid, maybe he can get a break. Mix sounds good.” A slim, young, well- dressed man walks in, carrying an attache case. Paul Kyser has just arrived from Newark, N.J., to sign contracts with TK; he’s turning over his artists to Stone. Stone greets the newcomer and hands him a sheath of papers, “This s a producer’s contract, Paul, which is basically what you are. We’ll put in the amendments, and I’ll have the lawyers in New York draw up a regular distribution contract so you can get moving right away. By the way, what do you want to call your label ?” “SSI,” Kyser answers. Stone starts to agree when Katie interrupts, “But we have an SRT,” she explains. “Right, that’s right,” Stone agrees. “Paul, can you come up with something else ?” “How about Wanderick Records,” Kyser suggests, “it’s a combination of my daughter and son’s names, Wanda and Erick.” Stone beams, “Great. See how easy it is to form a new label? This isn’t incorporated at this point, is it? Well, in the meantime if you do get a corporation, let me know.” Stone starts to read the agreement and asks Kyser for the names of his artists. “Jimmy Briscoe & the Little Beavers, Ike Callender, Storm, Super Disco Band….” “Wait a minute. Can we call them just the Beavers? We’ve already got a Little Beaver on our label. They’re too old to be ‘little’ anymore.” He grins, then adds, “You know, Paul, you don’t have to deliver all of these. Just gimme a hit.” Stone gets up and wanders out of his office explaining he’s going to the studio to ‘see what’s happening.’ In the studio are Steve Alaimo and producer Willie Clark at the 16 -track console. Music blasts over the speakers; the new Little Beaver tape “One of These Dolls Has Got To Go.” Stone’s head bobs up and down, keeping time with the music. “Good song,” he comments. Turning to Kyser, he explains, “It’s a good what’s happening song.” It’s 3 p.m. now and Stone ambles back toward his office, making a number of detours to stop and speak briefly with various members of his staff. Conversations between Stone and his staff seem disjointed; new ideas are introduced before the old ones have been dismissed; bits and pieces of information and unfinished sentences seem to lead nowhere. “We’re a close -knit family,” explains Stone. “And often long involved conversations are unnecessary. We understand each other.” Stone winds his way down a maze of hallways and spotting an empty office stops in to use the telephone. He calls one of his New York attorneys, Arthur Indursky. “We just formed a new label called Wanderick.” He spells the name. “And the first artist will be Jimmy Brisco and the Beavers.” As Stone goes back through the warehouse, disco pool operator Arthur Jacobs and Record Gallery’s Jeffrey Sadowsky greet him. “Hey, have you heard the new Peter Brown ‘Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me’ ?” Stone asks. Celli Bee’s “Superman” is blaring away over the warehouse loudspeaker. “Cut that off, will you and put on the new Otis Clay and then Latimore’s
‘All the Way Home,” Stone calls out. “This is kind of a laid back day,” he notes. “For the last couple of days we’ve had all these people in from Italy, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, actually from almost all of South America, all our licensees.” Less than eight years ago, Stone decided to ease out of distribution to concentrate on record production and manufacturing. “Oh,” he explains, “I had produced records long before then. I was one of the first to record James Brown and Ray Charles. That was when the record industry had only three or four major labels, Columbia, RCA and Decca. Capitol was just starting.” The phone rings. “Yeah, Ray. Good news. Great, keep up the good work.” It is Ray Caviano in New York phoning in with the positions of TK’s products on the upcoming charts. “We got six on again!” It’s almost 6 p.m. and you can feel business energies beginning to wind down. WCKO DJ Joe Fisher strolls in. “We’re getting more into disco, we’ve got more time and we can now play more progressive music,” Fisher says. “You want to know what’s doing especially well? T- Connection’s ‘Do What You Wanna Do.'”And ‘Funk Machine’ and this is the second time around for that one. It’s understandable, it’s got a strong Bahamian sound to it and you know there are a lot of Jamaicans and Bahamians in this area. And our station reaches the Bahamas, too.” Stone snorts. “It’s a good thing it does, because the Nassau station doesn’t play either one. I don’t know why they don’t play music by their own artists. Must be some kind of jealously. It’s ridiculous.” It’s 7:45 when Fisher looks at his watch and announces he’s leaving. Stone stands up. “Yeah, I think I’ll call it a day too,” he says and walks out the door, gets into his Lincoln and heads south past the airport to his Coral Gables home.