Last night, we crashed a 90-year-old's birthday party. This sounds like something a very crazy person or a very hungry person might do. Not saying we're not a little bit of both, but this was a celebration for which it was worth being the creepy stranger at a family party. It was to honor a man whose own son actually called him, "the hippest, sharpest cat I know."
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Henry Stone, the birthday boy, has been distributing, producing, and recording music in Miami since the 1940s. If you've never heard of him, he recorded Ray Charles right here in town, and worked with Cincinnati's country and R&B label King Records to sign James Brown. His TK Records
label is the reason we know such songs as "That's The Way (I Like It)" by KC and the Sunshine Band and "Rock Me Baby" by George McCrae.
Stone is, unquestionably, a cool-looking guy in his small, square beatnik glasses, long, kinky white hair and triangular goatee. Held at Miami's Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, the party was a family affair, reminiscent of a bar mitzvah with blue and shimmery silver decorations. Intimate, the room was filled with his old friends and colleagues, and artists whose careers he helped build. Most of the night was occupied by a showcase that included familiar songs sung by the artists themselves.
Paul Lewis of KC and the Sunshine Band's new group OSG or Old School Gang kicked it off with such songs as "Ain't No Stopping Us Now," "My Girl," and, of course, "I Wanna Sex You Up," complete with synchronized dancing.
We were technically the guest of a guest of Stone's longtime friend Seymour Stein, VP of Warner Bros. Records and co-founder of Sire Records, the man who originally signed the Ramones and Talking Heads. For the love of David Byrne, thank you, Mr. Stein. Seated next to Stone and his wife, and celebrity lawyer Allen Grubman these godfathers of good music watched the show with nods and smiles.
Notes were read by Terry Stewart of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, wishing Stone another hit record, and KC even sent a message that he was dedicating that night's performance to his former producer.
Charlotte McKinnon's name may not ring a bell, but the song "Fascinated
" she sang with Company B still plays regularly on the radio. She's looking good and sang about this "love toy" and how it makes her feel for an audience that ranged from about ten to, well, 90. Timmy Thomas performed "Why Can't We Live Together
," Stone's granddaughter belted one out, Jimmy Bo Horne sang a "Stand By Me" medley. Just before everyone got up to dance to "Rock Me Baby," George McCrae dedicated "You Are So Beautiful" to the birthday man. Touching and funny.
Closing out the night was Benny Latimore, who is one cool dude -- a black guy with nice, fluffy white hair, his one, lonely dangling G-clef earring. Before singing a song on his and Stone's new label, he made sure to inform everyone that, "We may be two old dogs, but we still know how to bury the bone."
We learned a lot last night, and heard some stories. Apparently, Paul Shaffer and David Geffen both have apartments on South Beach. Who knew? We spoke with Tony Wilson, the James Brown endorsed tribute artist and front man for the James Brown Band, also known as Tony Wilson and the Godfather Soul Band, who also provided a mean and acrobatic performance. We had only a few questions, and he had one good story.
You're a tribute artist?
I'm the front man for the James Brown Band for the original artist, with Bootsy Collins as well as the musicians who backed up James Brown's musical career from 1984 to 2006.
Do you have a favorite Henry Stone memory?
When I was doing a major 60 cast member play in London, I called James Brown about moving to Miami. He told me, well you gotta see Henry Stone, so I had to look up Henry Stone, and when I met him, we were just great friends from ever since then. Every event he does, he lets me know about it. We've shared a lot of stories.
There was a story I overheard you tell a minute ago about when MLK, Jr. was shot.
My godmother is Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas and they were actually in Boston with Little Anthony doing a show, in 1968, I was ten. We found out that Martin Luther King died, he got shot. So, they had to cancel their show and we went over to the James Brown show, and I guess at that time, the mayor wanted James Brown to do the show to keep the violence down, so I was actually backstage with James Brown. It's called James Brown saved Boston. So, it's miraculous that a ten-year-old boy was right there watching all the action from backstage.
Happy birthday, Mr. Stone. Thanks for the food and good music. We hope to crash your 100th birthday party, as well!
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