The Mike Hanks Story
Carmen Murphy and HOB

The Peppermints appeared at the 20 Grand in August 1960 and later changed their name to The Barons. The group included Lee Rogers, Jesse Greer and Duke Browner.

Carmen Murphy established her House of Beauty parlour around 1948 and developed it into a well-respected and profitable establishment. In the late 50s she ventured into the music business when DJ-cum-singer Jack Surrell persuaded her to fund gospel recordings. She had a piano placed in the salon's basement, converting it into a practice room, and consequently became an unlikely pioneer of Detroit R 'n' B.

The first secular HOB label release was made around 1959 by one of Detroit's premier vocal groups, The Peppermints, whose members included Lee Rogers, Jesse Greer and Duke Browner.

By 1960 Mike and Willie "Tony" Ewing had formed Spin Records and the label's first 45 was a Jackson and Hanks' composition titled "A Possibility" that Willie's group, The Twilighters, recorded. Mike had obviously got to know Carmen Murphy, as the address printed on their record label is her House of Beauty salon, at 111 Mack Avenue.

Around '61 The Peppermints became The Barons and launched Carmen's Spartan label. They followed up their moody and throbbing "I've Been Hurt" with a second 45 that had an appropriately ironic title: "Money Don't Grow on Trees." The two discs feature Jesse Greer on lead and sandwich one of Mike's few vocal outings, "When True Love Comes To Be," that was later released on the MAH'S label.

About six months later the group had a 45 on Carmen's new label: Soul. It was a Mike Hanks' composition titled "Dog Eat Dog" and they followed this up with "Who's in the Shack," with "While the Cat's Away" on the flip side. Mike arranged both songs, which have Roger Craton singing lead on "Cats" and Tyrone Douglas leading on "Shack." Tyrone would later become one of The Magictones while Roger went solo, using the name Lee Rogers.

Mike also co-wrote the tremendous double-sided Soul platter sung by Johnny West; which is probably Buddy Lamp using a pseudonym. The official A-side is "Tears Baby"  - a smouldering, mid-tempo, blues-tinged number with great guitar work. The B-side, "It Ain't Love," pounds into Rhythm-and-Blues-life after some dramatic dialogue between "Johnny" and his love-starved girlfriend. It's a collector's must-have 45.

There were at least two further Soul label 45s released in 1963, but these came from an independent Detroit company called Soulville Productions, run by Dino Courreay.

Motown history books tell us that Raynoma introduced Berry Gordy to Carmen and that they subsequently had their first Jobete production released on her HOB label: "I Need You," recorded by Herman Griffin and The Rayber Voices.

Sometime around 1963-64 Carmen sold the "Soul" name to Berry and he used it for Motown artists like as Jr. Walker, Gladys Knight and Jimmy Ruffin. Although Carmen had offered him the name for free, Berry's legal team wanted it done properly and insisted on paying for it: they gave her a dollar.

After a handful of 45s Carmen sold her HOB label to Scepter in New York and it continued using it for gospel recordings, while Carmen carried on funding various Detroit record labels.

Notes thanks to Graham Finch

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