Various Artists, The Legendary Henry Stone Presents: Alan Freed’s Favorite Chart Doo Wop Records

Lenny Kaye

By Lenny Kaye

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Henry Stone was an R&B entrepreneur who cut his teeth in the "race" era under the tutelage of Modern Records and the Bihari Brothers before setting up a distribution network in the Miami area as the '50s dawned. Soon, he began releasing records as well as shipping them, and he managed to stay ahead of the shifting quicksands of mass taste until reaching his greatest success in the '70s with the Miami-based TK label (home of K.C. and the Sunshine Band and many one-hit wonders) and the look-in-the-mirror ball of disco.

Classic vocal-group sounds, according to the man who trademarked the term “rock and roll.”

But it was with these doo-wop sides that Stone achieved his initial breakthroughs. Otis Williams was an aspiring baseball player from Cincinnati when he signed with Deluxe, a label Stone co-owned with King Records 'Syd Nathan, and scored a 1954 classic with the Charms, "Hearts of Stone." The Champions added lustre to Hank Ballard's "Annie Had a Baby" saga when they recorded "Annie Met Henry," and even the true Henry's lesser-known groups, like the Evergreens ("Very Truly Yours" and a blues-rockin '"Guitar Player" with some very tasty licks) and the harmonically convergent Tru-Tones ("Tears In My Heart"), were firmly rooted in the genre's touchstones of chimed onomatopoeia and infectious handclaps. This is a particularly good collection of sounds and songs legendary '50s radio DJ Alan Freed might have played as the moon rose over an evening half a century ago, letting the time slide roll.