The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Feb 15, 2016

Let’s get digital: The restored music collection of Henry Stone

Posted by Anne Tschida

Scotch recording tape. All photos courtesy City of Progress Studio.

When New Yorker Henry Stone moved to Miami in 1948, he set up a little music studio on Flagler Street. He started hanging out in clubs in Overtown, and by the 1950s was recording soon-to-be-legends such Ray Charles and James Brown. Through the years, his recording and publishing labels would also incorporate blues, country and disco–in the 1970s, Stone’s TK Records produced KC and the Sunshine Band out of its huge Hialeah-based headquarters. In other words, Henry Stone may be the most influential music man you’ve never heard of.

But you can hear some of his early prolific output on Feb. 24, thanks to the analogue restoration efforts of City of Progress Studio, run by another Miami musical heavyweight, Andrew Yeomanson, a.k.a. DJ Le Spam. Yeomanson received a Knight Arts Challenge grant in 2014 to preserve and resurrect analogue recordings, those tapes that no longer have a mechanism allowing them to be heard. It’s also a historical documenting project, saving the audio past.

That’s why the event “Analogue Archives Part I: The Henry Stone Collection,” with digitized music from the 1950s spinning from the hands of DJ Le Spam, is a partnership with HistoryMiami, also a Knight Arts grantee. The museum is dedicated to collecting objects and documentation from a varied history, from folkloric traditions to maps and photography and books. “Documenting Miami’s music history is also part of that,” said Maria Estorino, vice president of museum collections. “We want to tell the sonic story as well.”

At the popular Wynwood bar Gramps, Le Spam will spin an array of music that reflects the wide range of interest that Stone delved into during the 1950s. “He was a hustler,” according to Yeomanson. “He recorded everybody…blue grass, rockabilly, country, R&B.” The evening–hopefully outdoors on the patio, said Yeomanson–will include video art and a time for questions between sets. It will be an educational listening room combined with a dance party.

A record from the Henry Stone collection.

Yeomanson himself is as eclectic and expansive as Stone. Raised in Toronto, London and Bogota, Colombia, he landed in Miami in the early 1990s, when he played with a Haitian band and rocker Nil Lara. That was also when he started collecting vinyl. He formed the Spam All Stars, which have been touring and recording their unique blend of Latin and hip-hop infused electronic music for almost two decades; some consider their sound emblematic of Miami. Today, his LP collection is also one of Miami’s most extensive.

In 2003, Yeomanson founded his vintage studio out of his house. He had become enamored with restoring and documenting Miami’s musical history, he said, as well as preserving old equipment, such as turntables. “I’m a nerd about this,” he commented.

His City of Progress Studio provides access to analogue recording equipment, instruments and transfer to digital services. But these are expensive and technically challenging processes, and Yeomanson eventually realized he needed a little upgrade and help, which is why he applied for the Knight grant. After it was awarded, he was able to buy state-of-the-art equipment–and begin digitizing the collection of Henry Stone, who died in 2014. “He was recording every song out of Miami from 1948 on,” said Yeomanson. For this first event, he will expose us to 1950s music from Ervin T. Rouse, Sonny Thompson and Sonny Mack among others.

It’s just part of Yeomanson’s mission to document musical history.

A vintage recording tape.

According to his grant proposal, “by providing high-quality recordings, the studio hopes to create a growing catalogue of recordings that reflect Miami’s dynamic music community.”

For that reason, HistoryMiami also hopes to continue its collaboration with City of Progress. “Music is part of the vocabulary of Miami’s history,” said the museum’s Estorino. “This is music that should be heard, and we are dedicated to telling all of these stories.”

“Analogue Archives Part I: The Henry Stone Collection,” presented with HistoryMiami and Henry Stone Music USA, starts at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 at Gramps (176 N.W. 24th St., Miami).

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