The Mike Hanks Story
MAH'S Records

 The wooden panels provide some protection for the basement of 2461 Beaubien. The MAH'S moniker came from Mike Alonzo Hanks.  The Downbeat was very close to Mike's studio-cum-drape-and-record shop.

Mike had started MAH'S (his initials) in 1960 with fellow pioneer, Johnnie Mae Matthews, but their deal only lasted a couple of discs. The label's second 45 features The Andantes - the premier session singers at Motown. And the third and fourth releases are Mike backed by The Del-Fi's - the group that later found fame as Martha and The Vandellas.

At the time Mike was living on a west-side street named Yosemite; the address is actually printed on a couple of the early 45s. He used the basement of a house on Beaubien for rehearsals and auditions, and recorded about a mile away at United Sound on Second Avenue.

It was at United that he met Gracie, a classically trained background singer who became his second wife. They bought a storefront property at 2828 McGraw, also on Detroit's west side, and an advert appeared in the 1962 Yellow Pages: B. C. Redman Recording Studio. When I asked Gracie about "Redman" she had no idea who he/she was, but had very cherished memories of the cozy but busy married life she had with Mike.

    "Both of us were working other jobs. We started a record shop and a drapery shop, and used to sell records and make drapes at night. We turned the living quarters in the back into a recording studio and lived on Lawton, a block from the store. Mike bought a Wurlitzer and after we were married (December 1964) he bought himself a Hammond organ and taught himself how to play, write and transpose.

   He was such an amazing man. He was often a misunderstood man because he was thinking all the time and he had such an expressionless face when he was thinking - most people would think he was angry. A lot of times, because of his demeanor, he would automatically cause people to respond to him in a very defensive manner, and as a result it would put him in that mode too - so some individuals got to see a very stern side of him. They never allowed him to show them his other side, which was a cream puff. He was very warm, caring, compassionate and God-fearing. But with the business he was very serious, because he was so sure he had a gift to give to the world. 

    And he really wanted to help the young people that wanted to participate.

Notes thanks to Graham Finch






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