The Mike Hanks Story
D-TOWN 1964

The first D-Town Review was at Mr. Kelly's club, in June 1964

     The name "C. Bell" appears on most of Mike's compositions, with BMI files crediting a "Clara Belle Williams." But the co-writer's actual identity remains a mystery and some people have said it was simply Mike's way of getting additional royalties.

Mike's voice is heard on a 45 that's credited to Marco Hammon - "Me Boy You Girl" - a D-Town single that harks back to his HOB days. And a couple of "garage" recordings were released after Dave Leone did a deal with Mike shortly before forming his own label: Hideout.

Another key player at D-Town was singer-songwriter, Cody Black, who joined the fold in '64, soon after arriving from his home in Cincinnati. He appeared on the company's first review, held at George Kelly's popular nightclub, where he undoubtedly plugged his debut D-Town 45: "These Chains of Love."

Cody reminisced about his wonderful stint at D-Town, telling me,  "Mike was straight guy, a good teacher. I became the A & R man and signed The Precisions. They came up to the door and auditioned, and I heard them sing and said - yea, you all get a contact."

    The Precisions then made their recording debut with a self-penned gem titled "My Lover Come Back" - a beautiful ballad that borders on a cappella, although it's the flip, "I Wanna Tell My Baby," that's preferred by Northern Soul fans. Group-member Arthur Ashford told me they sang the songs in the bathroom of the Pig Pen, where their voices resonated off the tiled walls and hard fixtures.

But Mike was always looking for a different kind of sound, and sometimes used the large basement in Pampa Lanes Bowling Alley. This place had the acoustics of an aircraft hangar and it's probably where Cody Black cut his "Too Many Irons In The Fire."

And D-Town's biggest hit, "I Want You To Have Everything," was cut in Mickay's record store on 14th Street, an enterprise owned by Fred Brown. Frank Bryant played guitar on the session and told me about it, "It was cut in the back of the record shop, where we rehearsed. Dave Hamilton brought a portable thing in (recorder), and the Magic Tones were on chairs, singing."

Lee Rogers sang the lead vocal in the bathroom and the song sold so well it entered Billboard's chart in January 1965, peaking at number 17.

Around that time Mike also produced a couple of songs on J.J. Barnes that were released on the Mickay's label: "Color Green" and "These Chains of Love." When I asked J.J. about these he told me, "Mike co-produced those songs with Mr. Brown, who had a big place at the corner of 14th and Grand River. Mike came over one day and said, 'You can record in this place.' He wanted to do a session on me - that's how those songs came about."

Enthused by the national success of Lee Rogers' hit, Mike decided to move to a more prominent location and chose a house at 2656 West Grand Boulevard: literally just a couple of doors east of Motown's Hitsville studio. Berry Gordy wasn't impressed. 

Notes thanks to Graham Finch

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photograph credits at end of webisode




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