The Mike Hanks Story
1968 MAH'S

The Magic Tones on these recordings were Calvin "Doc" Stephenson, Tyrone Barkley, Tyrone Douglas and Paul Willis. This bring-your-own-bottle gig was in March '68. 

 The Magic Tones rejoined forces with Mike and resuscitated his MAH'S label with a breath of well-timed opportunism. Their song, "Together, We Shall Overcome," was uncannily recorded just before the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, in April 1968, and thus coincided with the sense of despair and outrage that swept across America and around the world.

    It's difficult to ascertain just how many copies sold, but it was a lot. Even though it doesn't have the dubious distinction of making Billboard's chart it was a red-hot song and lead singer Calvin Stephenson told me about his group's claim to fame: "We cut it at Magic City (studio on Grand River Avenue) on four track. We'd finished working on the tune, and the next day, that's when Martin got killed. I called Mike Hanks and said, 'Look, man, we got the perfect record for this situation.' He sent me down to United Sound and I mastered it. At the time Archer on Davidson was pressing 'em. We put it out the next day and (record store owner) Coachman was the first one to play it on his amplification (system) on the street. That's how the record got going. He called Mike and said, 'Man, I'm selling 'em as fast as I can get 'em!' My understanding is it sold 100,000 in the Detroit metropolitan area. Mike was making money distributing them himself."

    Mr. Ed Wingate, the wealthy owner of Ric-Tic Records, had the song re-pressed in the hope of making it an even bigger hit. But things didn't live up to expectations, chiefly because Mike didn't do the deal until a couple of months after Dr King's death, by which time the tune was effectively out-of-date.

   Although the chance of a coast-to-coast smash had gone the incredible local popularity of "Together, We Shall Overcome" guaranteed the group a prime spot on the Ric-Tic Review at the 20 Grand that summer. Long queues lined up to get in to the famed club and the event broke Chuck Jackson's three-year-old attendance record.

   The Ric-Tic distributed pressing has a different B-side to the poignant and beautiful balled, "Fun To Be Young," which has Calvin Stephenson leading soulfully on the deceivingly jaunty title. This second release has a Northern Soul flavored song - "It's Better To Love" - on the flip, and these two songs were originally released on each side of a Solid Hit label 45 in 1967: a super-rare piece of Detroit vinyl.

   The Magictones on all these sessions were Calvin Stephenson - who later joined the Undisputed Truth, Tyrone Barkley - who went on to cut a thumping record on the local Midsong label, ex-Baron Tyrone Douglas and Paul Willis.

   They followed up their MAH'S hit with another 45, "Let's Let Our Love Roll On." This record preceded Mr. Wingate's sell-out to Motown later in 1968, at which point the group then opted to join Armen Boladian's fledgling Westbound label; a venture that Mike had instigated.

Notes thanks to Graham Finch

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photograph credits at end of webisode




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