react very neighbourly when Mike tried to move into 2656
West Grand Boulevard in February '65. After Hitsville USA's
staff had quashed his house-deal Mike retaliated by starting
a new record label: Wheelsville USA.
self-penned, Northern Soul gem, "Save Your Love For Me
Baby," launched it later that month with a tremendous fizz.
Unfortunately it only made a muffled bang.
It's a standout
performance from Freddie and his strong voice is perfectly
harnessed to a slick, in-the-groove production. But Mike
presumably ordered just a small, initial quantity of 45s. No
doubt he hoped customer-demand would fuel a second pressing,
but that never happened, which is a pity, as it deserved to
sell by the vanload.
The second disc
was Rudy's instrumental version of the D-Town hit, "I Want
You To Have Everything," and these first two releases had
dark blue labels. They were followed by a couple of Don
Davis's productions, which have the more familiar pink one.
Don told me that
he never had any dealings with Mike but he inexplicably
co-wrote Lillian Dupree's D-Town song - "Hide & Seek" - with
him. Plus Jimmy Gilford's Wheelsville 45 - "I Wanna Be Your
Baby" - was released on Don's Solid Hit label and his
hallmark is also on Steve Mancha's soulful double-whammies -
"Did My Baby Call" and "Whirlpool" - now one of the most
sought after records on the label.
Steve had been
languishing as a songwriter and singer of promos at Motown
for around three years before Don got him to join his Solid
Hitbound team. "Melvin Davis introduced me to Don," recalled
Steve, "and we submitted some songs and he said he wanted me
to sing them." His Wheelsville disc was his first solo 45
and hit number 5 on WGPR's chart in July of '65. He
subsequently had a few other tremendous releases on Don's
own Groovesville label, making Billboard with "I Don't Want
To Lose You" and "Don't Make Me a Story Teller."
Willie Garrett dusted-off the masters of his 1963 Debra
Healy and the Magictones' recordings and got Mike to
re-release them on Wheelsville USA. That was about two years
after they came out on the Chrysler label.
The songs had been
cut at United Sound and feature key Funk Brothers, James
Jamerson, Joe Hunter, Uriel Jones and Eddie Willis, with the
then Magic Tones line-up of Willie "Gut" Allison, Bob Finch,
Calvin "Doc" Stephenson, and Richard "Dickie" Thompson. The
Wheelsville release, shown above, simply credits Debora
Conny Van Dyke
covered the group's "Don't Do Nothing I Wouldn't Do," after
a brief one-record stint at Motown and it's her version
that's popular at Northern Soul clubs: thanks to McKinley
Jackson's vibe-laden, up-tempo arrangement.
produced "Me and My Baby" on The Magic Tones: a tune
that embodies the effervescent spirit found in Wheelsville's
charismatic recordings. It was released around March 1966
and by then the group was Paul Willis, mainstay Calvin "Doc"
Stephenson and Albert Singleterry. Joe Connors then replaced
Albert on "How Can I Forget," which came out that August.
renowned jazz drummer Hindal Butts to write lead sheets and
play on sessions, which netted Hindal one Wheelsville 45,
"Back Up Baby."
He later did a
deal with the local Kool Kat label to get his song "Gigin"
released - a tune recorded at the Pig Pen during his one
year with Mike. "I was on staff with Mike," Hindal told me.
"We cut it at the Pig Pen. We had it going on over there.
Then Mike Hanks and Pete Hall got to squabbling. Pete wanted
to do what Mike was doing, but he couldn't do it."
This was a sign of
things to come, spelling the beginning of the end of Mike's
involvement in Wheelsville.
Notes thanks to Graham
image must not be
reproduced, used or copied photograph
credits at end of webisode