The Mike Hanks Story
Mike and his first recordings

Two 45s from the late 50s. George Braxton, a local realtor, owned The Brax record label.

Mike Alonzo Hanks was born on the 30th of August 1929, in Bessemer, Alabama, to Robert and Quentillar Hanks. His parents had seven other children and the whole family regularly attended the First Baptist Church in East Bessemer.

After graduating from high school Mike joined the exodus to the industrial north, moving to Detroit. He initially worked for the city's bus company before landing a job at Ford's; but his passion for music drew him to the city's numerous clubs and makeshift recording studios. He met fellow musicians and singers, including former hometowner Johnnie Mae Matthews, and like her, he also recorded for George Braxton.

Mike's first songs were made in 1958: "Christien" and "Can I Be Your Lover Boy." The Brax record label also credits a backing group named The Contours, but this is a female lineup, not the Motown guys.

It's likely that founding-Funk-Brother, Joe Hunter, played piano on these Brax recordings as Joe told me he could remember meeting Mike in the late 50s.

"I met him about two months after I met Berry Gordy. He came in a club where I was playing (Little Sam's), and said to me 'You think you can play, don't ya?' I thought; who's this gangster? But that was just his way, and he said, 'Well, let me buy you a drink.' I worked on all his first stuff and helped him register his publishing company (MAH'S) with BMI."   

Mike also recorded for the local Al - Jack's label, a short-lived, end-of-decade enterprise owned by Alonzo Tucker and Clarence Jackson, singing two more self-penned songs: "I Got A Feeling" b/w "I Cried." These recordings have a typical late 50's pop sound, similar in style to Little Willie John's big hit of '58, "Talk to Me, Talk to Me."

Mike submerged deeper into music making and tried to juggle it with his role of a working, family man with two children: Donald and Stephanie. But something had to give, and it was his marriage. He got divorced.

Notes thanks to Graham Finch

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