The Mike Hanks Story
D-TOWN 1963

 Some of the first 45s on the legendary Detroit label. Dee Edwards told me the label was named for her. She also had an early D-Town recording released on the Tuba label.

Gracie consented to her husband quitting Ford's in 1963 and Mike then launched a new recording company: D-Town.

The label's name was more parody than plagiarism of Motown. And it didn't end there: for Berry's VIP label, Mike started USD. And Wheelsville USA was Mike's retort to the name of Motown's nearby studio: Hitsville USA.

D-Town heralded a new chapter in Mike's musical career. Many musicians and singers joined him during the D-Town years, but the most significant was Rudy Robinson.

Towards the end of '62 an instrumental called "Red Pepper" enjoyed national success after being released on the local Prince-Adams label. Although credited to Roosevelt Fountain and Pens of Rhythm, it features Rudy playing organ on his first recording. 

Mike got Rudy to add some lyrics to create "A Telegram With Love," and then had Don Heart - who'd previously recorded for MAH'S - record it. It was the second D-Town disc and Rudy was ensconced, becoming the company's Musical Director and subsequently writing or arranging most of D-Town's songs.

Mike's recording engineer at D-Town was a guy nicknamed "Long-head Sam," who also played bass and drums. The main financial backers were Roger Brown, a Detroit Lion footballer, and Pete Hall, an ex-Giant working for one of the many distributors on Detroit's bustling Woodward Avenue.

Rudy told me about his first years with Mike, explaining, "I got to know Mike and we put the D-Town thing together. It was Pete Hall, Roger Brown, Mike Hanks, and me. We had the Pig Pen: that was the studio on McGraw, which was Mike's house. The kitchen was the control room, the bathroom was where you dubbed the voices in, the living room was where the piano was - and when you needed rhythm you'd beat on a pop bottle. We were making records then!"

 That's a fact: if you listen to Dee Edwards' ballad, "Too Careless With My Love," you can actually hear a pop bottle being tapped.

Dee also cut the melodic and catchy "You Say You Love Me" in '63. But this and Don Heart's "Lover's Hideaway" were sold to the local Tuba label, part of Music Merchants Record Distributors, owned by Marv Jacobs.

After these two deals Mike seemed reluctant to lease any more of his recordings and it's possible that he, like many others, wanted to emulate Motown and propel his D-Town company to national success.  

Notes thanks to Graham Finch

 image must not be reproduced, used or copied
photograph credits at end of webisode




This website is dedicated to Detroit, Soul Music, 45 RPM, Northern Soul and the great Motown era of Detroit Musics. It covers Golden World, Tamla, Wheelsville, Robert West, Darrell Banks, Johnnie Mae Matthews, Rose Battiste, Tera Shirma, Fred Bridges, Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Edwin Starr, Funk Brothers, Dennis Coffey, Bob Babbitt, James Jamerson, Twisted Wheel, Wiggan Casino and many more Detroit Souls topics.