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
USA was Mike's retort to the name of Motown's
nearby studio: Hitsville
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
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
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!"
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
image must not be
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credits at end of webisode