Henry Stone, who produced early recordings byRay Charles and James Brown and whose Hialeah, Fla., company, TK, was a fountain of disco in the 1970s and the source of what came to be called the Miami sound, died Thursday in Miami. He was 93.
His death was confirmed by his son Joe.
Mr. Stone was in the record business in Miami for more than 60 years, as both a distributor and a producer. A trumpeter as a young man, he arrived in 1948 after playing in an Army band during World War II and working in Los Angeles peddling records to restaurants and bars for their jukeboxes.
In the early 1950s he recorded a handful of songs, including “St. Pete Florida Blues,” on Rockin’ Records, one of the many labels he created, by a young blind singer, then known as Ray Charles Robinson, who would later go by the name Ray Charles. On De Luxe Records, he recorded “Hearts of Stone” by the Charms, which reached No. 1 on several rhythm-and-blues charts.
A friend and confidant of James Brown, who recorded for a competitor, King Records, Mr. Stone stepped in when Brown had a dispute with King. Identifying Brown and his band as Nat Kendrick and the Swans (Nat Kendrick was Brown’s drummer) to keep the arrangement secret from King’s proprietor, Syd Nathan, he recorded the instrumental “(Do the) Mashed Potatoes” and released it on the Dade label in 1960.
“One of the repeated lines was for someone to shout ‘mashed potatoes’ and Brown volunteered,” Mr. Stone is quoted as saying by the websiteHenryStoneMusic.com. “At the last minute I decided it was too risky using Brown’s very recognizable voice and turned to him and said, ‘You can’t do that! I can’t use your voice on this record because Nathan will” go after the label. “We have to leave your voice off and strictly make this an instrumental.’ I still liked the idea of someone shouting ‘mashed potatoes,’ but I had to use someone else.”
Mr. Stone continued to record rhythm-and-blues artists in the 1960s, but he focused largely on record distribution until several major labels decided to distribute their own product, forcing him to set up his own company, TK Records — named for Terry Kane, a sound engineer who built the recording studio. The company, which Mr. Stone ran with Steve Alaimo, a former pop singer, grew to become one of the industry’s largest independent labels during the disco era.
Its biggest hit makers were KC and the Sunshine Band, whose leader, Harry Wayne Casey, was a part-time employee at the company before the band began turning out a string of hits, including “Shake Shake Shake (Shake Your Booty),” “I’m Your Boogie Man,” “That’s the Way I Like It” — uh-huh, uh-huh — and “Get Down Tonight.” But the company and its subsidiary labels also released successful records by other artists — among them George McRae, Benny Latimore, Timmy Thomas, Betty Wright and Anita Ward — whose upbeat melding of funk, soul and disco came to be identified as the Miami sound.
When disco faded, so did TK, which ceased operations in 1981; one of its last recordings was “Another One Rides the Bus” — a parody of the Queen hit “Another One Bites the Dust” — by Weird Al Yankovic.
Henry David Epstein was born in the Bronx on June 3, 1921, and grew up for a time in the Washington Heights neighborhood in northern Manhattan. His father, Charles, a salesman, died when Henry was a boy. His mother, Leah, a seamstress faced with dire straits and two other children to care for after the stock market crash, placed Henry in an orphanage in Pleasantville, N.Y., where, having been inspired by the music of Louis Armstrong, he took up the trumpet.
He served in the Army during World War II, playing in an integrated band that was based in Fort Dix, N.J. After his discharge, he changed his last name to Stone and began his professional life in Los Angeles; shortly thereafter he moved to Miami.
Mr. Stone’s first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his son Joe, he is survived by his wife, the former Inez Pinchot; another son, David; five daughters, Donna Stone-Wolfe, Lynda Stone, Crystal McCall, Sheri Watson and Kim Stone; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A documentary about Mr. Stone and the Miami music scene, “Rock Your Baby,” is in the final stages of postproduction, one of its producers, Mitchell Egber, said in an interview. In a clip from the film, Mr. Stone gives a pithy summation of his life’s main focus. “Instead of playing golf or pool,” he says, “I loved to make records.”