the passage of time, you might be ready now to admit you own some of the
records produced by Henry Stone—maybe a lot of them. Initially, he mostly oversaw
R&B sessions, but he enjoyed spectacular but brief success as the original
disco producer. When times were good they were booming, but the bust came on
hard and fast. The late, great Stone looks back on his colorful career in Mark
Moormann’s The Record Man (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.
serving in an Army band that included the likes of Sy Oliver and Jimmy
Lunceford, Stone made some hard, levelheaded choices as a good but not great
trumpet player. He opted to move over to the business side of the music
industry, a decision his future right-hand man, almost teen idol Steve Alaimo
would also make. At one point, he sold platters out of the trunk of his cars
(earning the nick name “Record Man”), but he quickly moved into distribution
and production at a more professional level.
ran an appealingly loose ship at TK Records, where eager kids like Harry Wayne
“KC” Casey and Richard Finch could fool around in the studio after finishing
their gopher work. Eventually, their collaborations blossomed into KC and the
Sunshine Band. It took them a bit of time to catch on, but when they did, Stone
was practically minting money, at least until the phrase “disco sucks” entered
the public consciousness.
Stone’s reminiscences, Moormann gives viewers a pretty robust history of disco.
Maybe you knew George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby” is considered the very first
disco record ever, if you are a dedicated aficionado. However, the professional
rivalry he developed with his wife and fellow TK recording artist Gwen McRae
could be the basis of its own film.
scored interviews with most of the surviving TK artists (including Casey,
George McRae, Timmy Thomas, Benny Lattimore, and the smooth-jazzish Bobby
Caldwell) who describe Stone as old school, in mostly a fun to be around, only slightly
roguish way. There is also a third act triumph-over-adversity angle to the film
that sort of hides in plain sight from the audience during Stone’s initial
on-camera appearances. There are also some real world music business survival
tips to be gleaned from his experiences, like always be leery when a cat like
Morris Levy calls.
the most part though, Record Man is a
lot of breezy, nostalgic fun, even if you are not a huge disco fan. Highly recommended
as a slice of American cultural history, The
Record Man screens this Saturday (2/20) and Sunday (2/21) as part of the
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and the following Sunday, Monday, and
Wednesday (2/28, 2/29, 3/2) at the Washington Jewish Film Festival.
Labels: Big Sky '16, Disco, Documentary, Henry Stone