The Emanuel Lasky Story

Legendary bassist James Jamerson played on several of Emanuel’s Thelma recordings and they both featured at the Parizian in February 1964. Cornelius Watts managed this club before opening his own place in the late 60s:  Watt’s Club Mozambique.

“To live with you my whole life through
fulfils my mission on earth with you”
Lucky To Be Loved (By You)

Emanuel Lasky
An Introduction by Clay McMurray

Wow...I can't believe I've been in this business more than 40 yrs. During that time I've worked with some of the most creative and talented people in the music business. I've written, co-written, engineered and produced more than 150 albums/singles and CD's etc. I've had a #1, some top tens, a bunch rising and falling in the charts, and some that were never mentioned much at all. But what I cherish most is how it all got started and that handful of very special people that I encountered on my initial journey. One of those very special people was none other than Emanuel Lasky.

Why? Because he was a major part in my new beginnings as a wannabe songwriter/producer. I remember the first time I heard Emanuel on Detroit radio singing “Welfare Cheese”, “Lucky To Be Loved” and “Crazy”. Wow… I could only wish that he would take a look at some of the words and poems I had been writing - there was something about the way he sounded that I really liked. I never told anyone but I wanted very much to meet Emanuel Lasky, this young local singer with a strange voice and some good songs.

One evening while listening to DJ “Frantic Ernie” Durham, he announced that Emanuel Lasky, Joe Matthews, The Debonairs and Eddie Hill would be appearing at the 20 Grand Gold Room for his Friday nite record hop. I made quick plans to be there to see them all! That was how I ended up meeting Emanuel and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Coleman, who were the owners of Emanuel’s Record label, "Thelma". I heard they were also in-laws to Berry Gordy, who owned Hitsville USA. I guess you could say that Thelma Records was like the minor leagues, or community college of music and Hitsville was the tough University with a specialty of making songs national hit records from a row of individual houses located on Detroit's West Grand Blvd.

There were local rumors that if there was ever a writer, musician, producer or singer who started at Thelma records, got a local hit and became really good, that they might earn a shot at working at Hitsville: like Norman Whitfield, Richard Street, and quite a few others. I never dreamed I would one day get that same opportunity that started by writing songs for Emanuel Lasky.

I can remember asking Mrs. Coleman if I could stop by their office on Grand River and talk to them about writing songs and producing records for their Thelma label. The first time I stopped by the label’s office I was introduced to four people: Emanuel Lasky first and foremost, Don Mancha - who was at the piano, James Goffine - who was a writer for the label, and a guy they called Kingfish - a guitarist/writer/producer. It was also where I officially met Norman Whitfield who had once been a writer and producer for Thelma Records.

To be honest, I was a bit star struck when I met Emanuel because, because thru’ some act of luck or fate, I was standing next to one of my favorite artists who - until that nite at the Gold Room in the 20 Grand and now at his label’s headquarters - I had only known from his unusual voice on the radio. I was beginning to feel that I was somehow getting closer to my dream of writing songs for one of my favorite singers - Emanuel Lasky.

Thelma Records was a mere storefront with a few rooms in it and a large upright piano in the back room where all of the artist practiced, rehearsed potential songs and the writers got together to write. Mr. Coleman, who they all called Pop, sat in the corner of the room listening to Emanuel as he rehearsed for a gig somewhere in Ohio. Mrs. Coleman, who always called me Mack, initially sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do, and of course I said I'd like to join Thelma Records and write songs for Emanuel Lasky. She said here at Thelma Records you have to earn the right to write for artist like Emanuel Lasky and she had a lot to say about what was good enough to record and release on the label.

Mrs. Coleman was also the person who encouraged me to talk with Don Mancha about listening to some of lyrics I had written. This new relationship with Don M led to our collaboration of four songs on Emanuel, starting with "Sweet Lies" and “I'm a Peace Loving Man", then “I’ve Got To Run For My Life" and "You Better Quit It". At that time there couldn’t have been anything more fulfilling than meeting the "Emanuel Lasky" and actually co-writing songs that he would soon record.

I guess you could say Emanuel Lasky played a major part in my introduction to the world of Music as a new songwriter. And as far as I was concerned Emanuel Lasky was the biggest star on the Thelma Records label from 1962 –1966. He was a main vein at the start of my career and I am honored to be one of the many writers whose material he recorded. Here is the life and musical history of Emanuel Lasky, by Graham Finch.


Notes thanks to Graham Finch

Page Lead-in Clip from “Lucky To Be Loved By You”  [Wild Deuce Records 1003-A]



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