he was Mike's most prolific and successful artist, Lee
Rogers is largely remembered as a one-hit-wonder c/o "I Want
You To Have Everything."
Mississippi in 1939, he was only three when his family moved
to Detroit and had a typical upbringing of singing in church
and doo-wopping on street corners. With a voice akin to
Marvin Gaye's and some early recordings that are easily
mistaken for Tamla hits, it's tempting to say Lee was an
audio-facsimile of Motown's pin-up. But he wasn't, and when
interviewed by Goldmine magazine (April 1985) he reminisced
about the similarities between his and Marvin's early 45s:
"We had been good
friends since 1962 or so, after Harvey Fuqua brought Gaye to
We used to sit around and talk; we'd laugh about it
because we were such good friends. Do you remember his first
record on Tamla, "Mr. Sandman"? It came out about the same
time I had "Troubles" and it didn't do nothing in Detroit:
it was just a record. We would do record hops for Ernie
Durham of WJLB - who was the first black DJ to come through
with that wham-bam style. Marvin would watch me when we did
the shows - he saw that I had something going with the kids
with that beat - and Mickey Stevenson got aware of that."
Lee's first solo record after The Barons spit up, but before
that he'd recorded with The Peppermints on Carmen Murphy's
HOB label, which is how he met Mike Hanks:
"Mike was a great
guy. He reminded me of myself, so we hit it off right away.
There was a sense of humor that attracted me."
(For a sample of
Mike's offbeat brand of humor listen to "I Think About You"
that Mike sang in the style of a drunkard.)
The Peppermints became The Barons, Mike arranged their "Dog
Eat Dog" and "While The Cats Away." These two sides were
released on the Carmen's Soul label and the latter song
credits Roger Craton (Lee's real name) as lead singer and
precipitated his solo 45, "Troubles."
This MAH'S label
double-sider sold well around Detroit, and although "Walk On
By" was the official A-side, Detroit's radio jocks flipped
it over and Roulette Records then picked it up to give Lee's
ego and career a nice boost. Its throbbing, rhythm and blues
beat is led by a rabid guitar that pushes the session
forward, with pianist Joe Hunter and sax-man Eli Fontaine
following in the groove.
released in February 62 and there was two-year gap before
Lee had another 45. By then Mike had started D-Town, which
was the vehicle for Lee's biggest hit.
His first D-Town
45 was the moody foot-taper, "Sad Affair," which lost out
big-time to Marvin's more up-tempo "You're a Wonderful One."
But later in '64 Lee got to enjoy his own national success
with "I Want You To Have Everything." This was recorded
"live" using makeshift equipment in Mickay's Records store
on 14th Street, and maybe that's why there's such
a spontaneous verve running through the grooves of the 45.
extensively on the back of this hit, popping back to Detroit
to record his other D-Town discs at the rudimentary Pig Pen:
"On the later
recordings, Mike would cut the tracks first and when I'd
come back off the road from touring they'd be completed and
I'd overdub the vocals. They'd have a big speaker in the
room and I'd sing - we didn't use headphones - and it
sounded like we had a big band playing in the studio. There
was a lot of leakage; open mikes, they picked up the music
wherever it was coming from. and it turned out real good."
climbed to number 17 on Billboard's R&B chart in January of
'65 (lingering on the fringe of the pop 100) and Lee
followed up in April with "You're The Cream of The Crop."
This single didn't trace the same chart-ascending trajectory
as "Everything" and failed to even make the top 100. Maybe
it's yet another instance of inadequate distribution
restricting a record's sales, although conspiracy theorists
will point out that its release came soon Motown scotched
Mike's attempt to move on to West Grand Boulevard.
attention-grabbing guitar intro' the song snaps into catchy,
I'll-Be-Doggone, hand-clapping action - although the fates
of "Cream" and "Doggone" differ in that Marvin's Tamla 45
rose to Billboard's #1 spot, his very first chart topper.
felt that more hits would come and when The Michigan
Chronicle interviewed him (in April) about his success he
put it down to dedication and old-fashioned hard work:
difference between my singing now and when I was in the
church is that now I do it in a more expensive suit."
other two, '65 D-Town releases were "Boss Love" and "You
Won't Have To Wait Until Xmas," both of which lacked a
catchy melody and thus scuppered his professional momentum.
The finger-popping "Go-Go Girl" came out in '66 - shortly
before the label's demise - and by then Marvin Gaye had
become established with hits like "Ain't That Peculiar" and
"One More Heartache."
D-Town's demise, Lee went with some of the label's other
artists to Pete Hall's operation at Wheelsville.
vibrant "Love & War" came out later in '66 and the record's
B-side - "How Are You Fixed For Love" - was soon re-released
with another powerful song, "Cracked Up Over You." This
tremendous piece of Wheelsville vinyl might have been cut in
Memphis, as Lee recalled his Premium Stuff sides were
definitely recorded there, with Willie Mitchell producing.
Willie and Lee
combined well to produce a driving beat on the Premium Stuff
single, "Sock Some Love Power To Me," and recalled:
"R&B to me
always has to have a heavy bottom. I love a heavy bass beat;
when a bass line is syncopated, then I can execute the rest
of it mainly myself. I believe that's why this music is so
strong today, because the beat that I maintained."
In February 1969
"I Need Your Love," backed with "Jack The Playboy," became
the last 45 on Premium Stuff and Lee then signed with
"Diamond Jim" Riley. Two 45s - "If I Could Steal You Away"
and the funky, semi-psychedelic "Sex Appeal" - were released
before Jim was shot and killed in Watt's Club Mozambique in
the chance of getting another Detroit recording deal
drastically reduced, Lee decided that it was time to start
his own label: Soul Wheel. The only release was his "Love
Bandit," a bluesy number that Lee wrote, produced, and
subsequently sold to Loadstone Records owner Charles Stone,
who added horns and put it out on his own LA-based label. It
sold reasonably well, but Marvin Gaye was basking in his
gloriously rhetorical anthem, "What's Going On," to which
Lee might have been tempted to reply, "You tell me."
Lee located to the West
Coast to try his luck, but suffered a car accident that left
him with one kidney and hospitalized for months at a time.
He signed a three year
contract with Motown that ended in the late 70's without any
success, after which he started his own California based
The sense of deja vu
was compounded by the use of Mike's 60's logo but the
venture never came close to catching the dynamism of those
A few 45's were
released during the mid-80's including Lee's "Rocking
Skates" 45, but that was his last recording.
Lee died in 1990.
Notes thanks to Graham
image must not be
reproduced, used or copied photograph
credits at end of webisode