Emanuel recorded these songs at
the Tera Shirma studio in Detroit.
Mike Hanks produced them.
“I’m over here
Not by chance nor choice
And you better believe me
have no voice”
Letter From Vietnam
Thelma records faded out later in 1966, with
Motown taking them over. Emanuel continued gigging around
Detroit’s nightclubs, but with his recording career in limbo, he
took a job in a shoe store, which is where the effervescent Mike
Hanks spotted him.
“Mike Hanks saw me and said, ‘Hey, Laskey!
What ya doing these days?’ I said, ‘Nothing,’ and he said, ‘Do
you feel like singing? I got a couple of tunes for ya, man!’
Mike was collaborating with Mr. Ed Wingate -
the wealthy owner of Ric-Tic Records - and had co-written the
Fantastic Four’s hit, I Love You Madly”, which was originally
destined for Emanuel.
“He took me to Mr. Wingate’s house on Edison;
he was working out of his basement. Mr. Wingate said, ‘I like
that boy, but I don’t want him to have that song. I want Sweets
(James Epps) to have it.’ So I walked to Sweet James’s house and
I almost cried when I gave it (the master tape) to him. It was a
hit for me - I knew that.”
The Fantastic Four’s disc reached Billboard’s
number 12 in September ’68, but Mike consoled Emanuel with the
offer of another tune, a punchy ballad titled More Love.
“Mike was a phenomenal person. He said to me,
‘I got a song that’s better than that.’ I said, ‘you got to be
kidding me.’ But when I heard More Love – that’s exactly what it
was. On the other side was A Letter From Vietnam, which went
over big. (DJ) Robin Seymour used to love it; he played it
everyday.” This song features an acoustic-guitar intro from
another musician in Detroit’s pantheon of rhythm, Dennis Coffey.
“I’m telling ya – I had great people!” as Emanuel put it.
It was released around Christmas of 1968 after Mike Hanks had
persuaded one of the Motor City’s main impresarios, Armen
Boladian, to start a new recording company. It became the first
45 on Armen’s Westbound label but unfortunately couldn’t
replicate the success of Fantastic Four’s hit.
That was followed by Never My Love, a pop
standard has been recorded by numerous groups - The Four Tops,
5th Dimension, Booker T & The MGs, and Chill Factor – but
unfortunately Emanuel’s great version trailed in the wake of
Funkadelic’s hit, I’ll Bet You.
The upshot was Emanuel’s 45
got relegated to Westbound’s promotional back burner and he
didn’t even know it had been released until I told him. With its
wonderful string arrangement, polished production, top-notch
musicianship - plus Emanuel’s great vocal delivery - it deserved
a much better fate.
And Emanuel remembers cutting about six other
songs for Mike Hanks at Tera Shirma. They are still in a can –