penchant for guns compounded by his in-your-face
authoritarian manner had led to some pretty hair-raising
encounters and as Melvin Davis told me:
carried two guns - not just one! He used to threaten
everybody, his band members. everybody. He and I got on so
well because he pulled his gun on me one day and I told him
to go ahead and shoot. I said, 'I want my fucking money!
I don't give a shit if you shoot.' That's how I felt at
the time - I was a crazy young kid. He started laughing and
said, 'Melvin, you're a motherfucker!' He gave me my
money and I never had any trouble out of him anymore. Some
people really had a hard time with him because he'd take a
hard line. But if you just laughed at him - it seemed that
he liked that more than anything. 'cause he'd be cussing
people out and I'd start laughing my ass off, then he'd
start laughing. Then he'd say, 'Let's finish this tune
and then we'll call it a night,' and it'd end just like
that. Mike wasn't even serious when he was doing all that
shit, but when people started take him seriously, then he'd
really get pissed off. He didn't like that. y'know, if you
couldn't joke around, take a joke, and talk shit and get
shit going. It seemed like he couldn't operate unless he was
operating out of chaos."
Apart from the managing D-Town, Mike was running the
Webbwood and the Stadium, plus a restaurant on the Detroit's
Westside. And in 1970 - despite the city's social and
economic problems deteriorating since the devastating riots
in '67 - he was about to open another.
then Detroit had one of the highest murder rates in the
States: around ten a week. In the early hours of a cold
Friday morning outside the past-its-prime 20 Grand, Mike
Hanks became one of the tragic statistics after being shot
four times in the chest.
driven to the nightclub on that freezing February night to
discuss business with one of his staff. His widow, Gracie,
recalled the sad prelude to her husband's death:
working there was going to start working for him at the
restaurant. He went down there that night to tell her to
come to work the next morning. When he was talking to the
lady who sold the tickets, these four gentlemen came up.
They wanted to go in but they didn't want to pay. Then they
started being belligerent and my husband said, 'Why don't
you just pay or why don't you leave, because she's not going
to let you in.' One word led to another and it led into
an argument, and so the guys left. Then someone said the
guys were outside. my husband was going to leave but his
friend told him, 'Don't go, it's nearly closing time,
we'll all go out together.' But my husband said, 'No,
I'm not afraid - I've got a gun.' He would not stay and
when he came out the door the guys jumped him and shot him.
Then they took his gun and shot him."
That week's Michigan Chronicle carried the sad news and Rita
Griffin, the newspaper's entertainment writer, highlighted
forty-year-old Mike's achievements and informed readers that
the culprits were in police custody. Gracie was left to pick
up the pieces.
Notes thanks to Graham
image must not be
reproduced, used or copied photograph
credits at end of webisode