The Mike Hanks Story
Dee Edwards

Lee's Sensation was one of Detroit's longest-running clubs and Dee appeared there with Lee Rogers in February 1964, still singing her Tuba song from '63. The record's flipside is shown above.

  Dee's soulful voice packed a mighty punch pulled from a church-going childhood spent singing gospel. She established herself as Mike's number-one female artist after leading The Paragons on their great Exit 45 and subsequently recorded one super-sounding Tuba single plus five D-Town discs.

  Brought up on Lawton - conveniently close to the Pig Pen - Dee told me how her career kicked off:

  "I put The Paragons together. My brother (Albert Harrell) could sing and we were practicing around the house, and we just formed a group. My mother lived around the corner from Mike's studio and people were telling him that there was a girl in the neighborhood who could really sing. And people were telling me there was a recording studio in the neighborhood, so I walked around there one day. That was it!

  Her first, but the group's only 45, was cut in the Pig Pen in early '63. "My Time Is Important To Me" sounds like an improved version of The Marvelettes' 1961 hit, "Please Mr. Postman," and Dee also shines on the slow flip, "Pretty Words." Willie Garrett, Mike and Dave Hamilton wrote both sides and it's criminal the double-sider wasn't a hit. 

  When The Paragons split up she became a solo artist and explained how Mike christened her Dee and coined D-Town:

  "When I first went over there it was just MAH'S, and when we decided that we were going to record some music - he was really crazy about my voice and all that - he looked at me and said, 'Let's call it D-Town!'  He was also trying to figure out what to call me, because my name is Doris Edwards, and he looked at me and said, "Let's just call you D... Dee Edwards!"

  Her first tune, the lilting "You Say You Love Me," came out on the local Tuba label - where Pete Hall worked - in August 1963, and its catchy B-side, "Tired Of Staying Home," was later re-released on the back a D-Town disc.

  The pop-bottle-featuring, cha-cha-esque tune, "Too Careless With My Love," was the third release on D-Town and sold well in Detroit. "Oh What a Party" followed in 1964 and has a more typical sixties' sound to it: handclaps accentuating a strong beat and an abundant use of the noun baby.

  "Happiness Is Where You Find It" soon followed and in the spring of '65 "His Majesty My Love" came out. Dee's most popular 45, "All The Way Home," was released in '66 and this raunchy song encapsulates and defines that year's inimitable groove with its powerful beat, prominent bass and oomphing horns that must have rattled the Pig Pen's windows.

 Gracie Hanks had told me that she used to take care of Dee's wardrobe and escort her to various gigs to make sure the neophyte was safe. But having heard tales of Mike's gun-toting brand of artist-management I asked Dee how she got along with the president of the company: "He wanted to come off as a big boss; in control, but with me, I didn't have a problem with him."

  "All The Way Home" was her last 45 with Mike as the label went the  way of many others a few months later.

  A couple years passed before she recorded two songs that Sonny Sanders produced for Pete Hall's Premium Stuff label: "I'll Shed No Tears" - a nice ballad - plus a funky-dancer, "A Girl Can't Go By What She Hears."

  "A Girl" deserved a promotional fanfare but Pete and The Queen seemingly failed to roll out the appropriate red carpet and consequently the record never made it.  Perhaps "Tears" was intended as the B-side, but each song was released individually backed with the instrumental. This was at the end of 1968 and was a sign that Pete was trying to save cash or didn't have enough material to record. Or both. Either way, the label only had one more record after Dee's two before Pete threw the towel in.  

  Dee had got married to arranger Floyd Jones and they collaborated on some songs that Guido Marasco released on his GM and Bumpshop labels in 1970.

  "Say It Again With Feeling" was a local success and is another example of a potential big hit subject to proper promotion and distribution. But Floyd told me that a golden opportunity wasn't snapped and the record faded away.

  After one unsuccessful RCA single in 1972, Floyd followed up with a well produced song that was released on the local De-To label - "I Can Deal With That" - that Dee cut in a room above (label owner) Dr Kyle's surgery on Grand River Avenue. It's a smooth, mid-tempo groover that was released with and without strings and both versions are now collectable 70's dancers. Back then they frustratingly flopped and the song - about turning a blind eye to her lover's infidelity - was the last of Dee's Detroit recording sessions.

  At this point the city's heyday had long gone and the couple went to New York, finally enjoying Billboard chart action with a Disco hit released on Cotillion in 1979: "Don't Sit Down."   

Notes thanks to Graham Finch

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




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