hip hop music

February 2, 2004

Mingering Mike Finally Hits the Big Time

A few weeks ago we mentioned the saga of Mingering Mike, whose legend began with a post on soulstrut.com, and soon spread like wildfire thanks to links from metafilter (and o-dub).

Well the story has now been picked up by the NY Times in an excellent story by Neil Strauss, that recounts how these two beatdiggers discovered Mike's peculiar treasures, and set out to find the man behind them:

A Well-Imagined Star

The term diggers applies to those obsessed souls who dig through cardboard boxes and milk crates at flea markets and thrift stores in search of rare record albums. And according to the unwritten bylaws of diggers, the location at which any vinyl treasure is discovered is strictly confidential. This is a way of protecting one's turf, even if that turf is just a dust-covered wasteland of hand-me-downs.

So it shall be that the location of one of the greatest digger discoveries of our time must remain a secret.

The diggers were Dori Hadar, 29, and Frank Beylotte, 32, friends from Washington who met a year ago at a Salvation Army store while mining for funk and soul gold.

"I went to a flea market, and there was a huge record collection there, at least 20 boxes," Mr. Hadar said, recalling the morning of the discovery. "I was going through that very happily when I came across this box full of strange hand-painted album covers. I realized they were fake and was about to put them back, but then I looked at them more closely."

Pulling the records out of the sleeves, he was surprised to find that they were made not of vinyl but of cardboard. Each had been cut in the shape of a record, with grooves and a hand-lettered label painted on. Nearly all the albums were credited to an unknown black musician named Mingering Mike, and dated from 1968 to 1976.

The front covers were intricately painted to look like classic funk albums; on the spines were titles and fake catalog numbers; the backs had everything from liner notes to copyright information to original logos; the inner sleeve was often a shopping bag meticulously taped together to hold a record; and some actually opened to reveal beautiful gatefold sleeves. A few albums had even been covered in shrink-wrap and bore price stickers and labels with apocryphal promotional quotes.

What Mr. Hadar found was a cache of seemingly nonexistent music: soundtracks to imaginary films, instrumental albums, a benefit album for sickle cell anemia, a tribute to Bruce Lee, a triple-record work titled "Life in Paris," songs protesting the Vietnam War and promoting racial unity, and records of Christmas, Easter and American bicentennial music. He had discovered, perhaps, an outsider artist.

"There are quite a few folk art collectors that are salivating to get their hands on this collection," said Brian DiGenti, the editor of Wax Poetics, a leading journal for record collectors. "I think without a doubt that when all this settles down, this collection will be in a permanent gallery, and it will probably be one of the more important folk art collections there..."

Posted by jsmooth995 at February 2, 2004 11:58 AM

Weblog Archives