The Mike Hanks Story

Emanuel Laskey's "Never My Love," was released in the second half of 1969. Mike was killed on March 20, 1970.

 Mike's penchant for guns compounded by his in-your-face authoritarian manner had led to some pretty hair-raising encounters and as Melvin Davis told me:

   "Mike carried two guns - not just one! He used to threaten everybody, his band members. everybody. He and I got on so well because he pulled his gun on me one day and I told him to go ahead and shoot. I said, 'I want my fucking money! I don't give a shit if you shoot.'  That's how I felt at the time - I was a crazy young kid. He started laughing and said, 'Melvin, you're a motherfucker!' He gave me my money and I never had any trouble out of him anymore. Some people really had a hard time with him because he'd take a hard line. But if you just laughed at him - it seemed that he liked that more than anything. 'cause he'd be cussing people out and I'd start laughing my ass off, then he'd start laughing. Then he'd say, 'Let's finish this tune and then we'll call it a night,' and it'd end just like that. Mike wasn't even serious when he was doing all that shit, but when people started take him seriously, then he'd really get pissed off. He didn't like that. y'know, if you couldn't joke around, take a joke, and talk shit and get shit going. It seemed like he couldn't operate unless he was operating out of chaos."    

    Apart from the managing D-Town, Mike was running the Webbwood and the Stadium, plus a restaurant on the Detroit's Westside. And in 1970 - despite the city's social and economic problems deteriorating since the devastating riots in '67 - he was about to open another.

    By then Detroit had one of the highest murder rates in the States: around ten a week. In the early hours of a cold Friday morning outside the past-its-prime 20 Grand, Mike Hanks became one of the tragic statistics after being shot four times in the chest.

   He'd driven to the nightclub on that freezing February night to discuss business with one of his staff. His widow, Gracie, recalled the sad prelude to her husband's death:

   "The lady working there was going to start working for him at the restaurant. He went down there that night to tell her to come to work the next morning. When he was talking to the lady who sold the tickets, these four gentlemen came up. They wanted to go in but they didn't want to pay. Then they started being belligerent and my husband said, 'Why don't you just pay or why don't you leave, because she's not going to let you in.' One word led to another and it led into an argument, and so the guys left. Then someone said the guys were outside. my husband was going to leave but his friend told him, 'Don't go, it's nearly closing time, we'll all go out together.' But my husband said, 'No, I'm not afraid - I've got a gun.' He would not stay and when he came out the door the guys jumped him and shot him. Then they took his gun and shot him."

   That week's Michigan Chronicle carried the sad news and Rita Griffin, the newspaper's entertainment writer, highlighted forty-year-old Mike's achievements and informed readers that the culprits were in police custody. Gracie was left to pick up the pieces.

Notes thanks to Graham Finch

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