60's recordings aren't to everyone's taste - sniffy
audiophiles and fans of the Motown sound probably find them
too unsophisticated - yet they capture the authentic sound
of Detroit Soul.
One reason for a
lot of Mike's music lacking crossover appeal is that - like
most back-street studios in Detroit - he used a basic
two-track recorder. Another reason is that the Pig Pen's
acoustics were brutal; plus Mike's impromptu late-night
sessions inevitably resulted in recordings that have a live
and spunky spontaneity about them.
earlier recordings on labels such as MAH'S and Star Maker
were mostly done at United Sound's hi-tech studio and sound
cleaner; their overall quality is comparable to what Berry
was releasing in the early 60s.
recordings were also nicely polished and Motown endorsed the
Fantastic Four's Ric-Tic hit - I Love You Madly - by signing
the group and re-releasing the recording.
to say why success proved so elusive. Maybe Mike's
exuberance simply got the better of him. Perhaps he could
have done with someone with Smokey Robinson's ability, a
songwriting team like Holland, Dozier and Holland, or an
engineer of Mike McLean's caliber. But as Melvin Davis said,
"Everything doesn't have to be Motown," and Mike was
probably happy with what he had. I can't imagine he had any
obvious from the amount of music Mike created that he was no
pedant - the following pages attest to that - although the
man remains something of an enigma. Cody Black remembered
him as a great cat, Tommy of The Peps said he was a
dangerous dude, his widow called him a God-fearing cream
puff and Melvin Davis thought Mike was a frustrated
great ideas - 'I wanna do this - I wanna do that.' -
it's just that he needed help. He was funny and you would
have loved him. And you would have been right up his alley;
he loved to talk to somebody and tell them how he felt and
all that kind of shit. He was just looking for some kind of
way to vent himself.
just this obsession with Motown. Who knows what his drive
would have been if it hadn't been his hatred for Berry? And
I'm sure Berry is not as great as he appears to be. People
helped him. What would he have done without James Jamerson?
What would have happened without James Jamerson? Who Knows!
Berry was a very talented man in himself, but still, he had
tons and tons of great people helping him. I think he
acknowledged that, probably not to the extent he could have
and should have."
much help, Mike became one of the most prolific producers in
Detroit during the 1960s. If you keep clicking forward
you'll find details of practically all the 45s that he was
involved with. Most of these Detroit-based discs' release
dates have been gleaned from local newspaper articles, radio
station charts and other such ephemera. If you have any
surveys printed by Detroit-area stations such as CKLW, WXYZ,
WCHB and WJLB, please see if any of Mike's 45s are listed
and let us know the details. The research is ongoing.
Between 1998 and 2004 I interviewed the people listed below
and would like to thank them all again for their invaluable
help in piecing together Mike's life and achievements;
Ronnie Abner of The Peps, Arthur Ashford of The Precisions,
Jack Ashford, J. J. Barnes, Jay Butler, Joe Billingslea of
The Contours, Armen Boladian, Cody Black, Dr Brockington,
Frank Bryant, Hindal Butts, Don Davis, Melvin Davis, Dee
Edwards, "Sweet" James Epps of The Fantastic Four, Willie
Ewing, Frank Garcia, Gracie Hanks, Will Hatcher, Percy
Hargrove, Thomas Hester of The Peps, Rosalind Holmes &
Annette Helton of The Del-Fi's, Joe Hunter, Wyline Ivey of
The Elegants, McKinley Jackson, Floyd Jones, Dr Kyle,
Emanuel Laskey, Steve Mancha, Freddy Martin of The Paragons,
Tommy Martin of The Caravelles & The Paragons, Johnnie Mae
Matthews, Sam Motley, Ron Murphy - who provided a copy of
his 1983 interview with Carmen Murphy (unrelated), Gwen
Owens, Pat Robinson, Rudy Robinson, Calvin Stephenson of The
Magic Tones and Mike Theodore.
Additional 45 rpm record label scans were kindly supplied
by the following collectors: David Flynn, Jeffrey Garbus,
Rob Klein, Lars Nilsson, John Manship, Joe Moorehouse, Carl
Pellegrino, Ron Murphy, Eric Silvenis and Greg Tormo. Many
Notes thanks to Graham
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