On Christmas Day 1945 in Walhall, South Carolina a musical legend was born. Clyde Darnell Wilson, or as all collectors and lovers of Detroit soul music know him ... Steve Mancha. Clyde moved to Detroit at the age of five years old and by 1960 he was already singing locally around the Detroit area when he met another future Detroit icon, Melvin Davis. Melvin Davis was already recording for Jack and Devora Brown's Fortune Records. Around this early time Clyde joined Melvin Davis, David Ruffin and Tony Newton in forming a group called The Jaywalkers. Any info on this group and any records that exist would be gratefully received by Hitsville. Shortly after this Clyde met and became friends with Wilburt Jackson. It was with Wilbur that Clyde formed the duo The Two Friends. They were about to record their first 45 for Harvey Fuqua's HPC label. Join us now as we explore the work of one Detroit's Northern Soul musical heroes ...
Mr. STEVE MANCHA
The Two Friends cut one single for Harvey Fuqua's HPC label in 1960 "Just Too Much To Hope For" b/w "Family Reunion." Most Motown collectors are probably more familiar with the version of "Too Much to Hope For" cut in 1968 for Motown Records by Tammi Terrell. HPC was a short lived label and Harvey Fuqua went on to form Harvey and TRI- Phi Records with Gwen Gordy. As a duo Clyde and Wilburs days were numbered as Gwen and Harvey put all their promoting energy into another newly formed pairing, Johnny Bristol and Jackey Beavers, who recorded surprisingly enough as Johnny and Jackie! It was through Gwen Gordy that, after struggling with sluggish sales of their labels, that they merged with Berry Gordy's expanding Motown stable. Part of this package deal meant that the artists connected with Harvey and TRI Phi were also brought under contract to Motown. Thus began the 'Motown' years of Two Friends, Johnny and Jackie, Jr Walker and The All-stars, The Detroit Spinners and many more.
It was in this period that Clyde was allegedly a member of Laurence Faulkon and The Stars and another group Laurence Faulkon and The Sounds. They recorded two records, firstly for MRC Records in 1962 called "I'll Marry You" and a second one on Mike Hank's MAHs label called "My Girlfriend" b/w"Why Should We Hide Our Love."
Although it appears that Motown didn't record anything on The Two Friends, Clyde and Wilbur did have a hand in writing some of the songs of the time. A couple of notable songs in which they feature on the credits are "Give A Little Love" - Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and the wonderful upbeat stomper by The Monitors - "Number One In Your Heart" - VIP 25032
With Motown concentrating it's efforts on other artists, here ended the relationship between Clyde Wilson and Motown. Clyde looked around for other opportunities and eventually teamed up with yet another legendary Detroit record producer, Don Davis.
At this point Don Davis suggested that Clyde change his performing name and Clyde adopted Don Davis' partner Don Mancha's (Yet another legendary Detroit musical figure), surname. Hence Clyde Wilson a.k.a. Steve Mancha found himself recording for Wheelsville Records under the auspicious production talents of Don Davis. Their first work together produced an absolute classic Detroit Soul 45. Steve Mancha - "Did My Baby Call" b/w "Whirlpool" - MW 518
The record sold fairly well but not enough to become a hit even locally. The song "Did My Baby Call" was also released on the B side of the magnificent Professionals - "Thats Why I Love You" - Groove City 101. Another version of this fabulous song was also recorded a few years later by The Mad Lads - "Did My Baby Call" b/w "Let Me Repair Your Heart" - Volt 4080. The version by Steve Mancha is probably Steve's finest moment and is typical of Don Davis' production work of that period.
In the same year Steve switched to the newly formed GrooVesville Record label and released the brilliant ballad "Youre Still In My Heart" b/w "She's so good" - GV 1001.
The A side of this record is the epitome of a Detroit soulful 'beat ballad', haunting vocals mixed in with brilliant backing group. This really does it for me. The strong drum/piano led, almost midtempo track is filled with ghost like supporting voices that were to become a signature of the GrooVesville set up in the mid to late 60's. Steve's voice is fully matured now and when paired with Mr. Davis' production they became an extremely tight knit musical team. The flip side is almost equally good and produces much of the same. A tremendous double sided record.
The next release on GrooVesville in 1966 was the great "I Don't Want To Lose You" b/w "I Need To Be Needed" - GV 1002. This track made the RnB Chart and became a minor hit. Both sides are wonderful Detroit soul, but "I need To Be Needed" is, for me, the better side. A wonderful production with a string section probably called on from The Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Again the backing vocals are stunning, and Steve, at his best, noticeably straining vocally, every ounce of his body as he claims he needs to be needed. If you haven't heard this side, then you're in for a real treat.
It was this year that Steve took a brief respite from singing solo and joined up with Eddie Anderson, JJ Barnes and Edwin Starr to form The Holidays. The group immediately cut the incredible "I'll Love You Forever" for Ed Wingate's Golden World label. The other side of this 45 (GW 36) is the uptempo instrumental "Making Up Time" and can be heard on the website under the 'Golden World Article'. The lead on this 45 is taken by Edwin Starr and the record became an RnB hit and went some way to establishing The Holidays name as a group.
As the members of The Holidays continued their solo careers, Steve returned to his solo recordings with GrooVesville.
His next release was "Friday Night" b/w "Monday Through Thursday" - GV 1004. This was probably Steve's most uptempo record up to date, both sides being basically the same track with different but similar lyrics on each side. Thus the flip side is almost a Part 2 of the A side. Again a wonderful production with one of the best brass sections you will hear on a record, and the drum rolls are awesome.
A point of note is that the dynamic duo of Popcorn Wylie and Tony Hester are credited on the A side, whilst their names are nowhere to be seen on the B Side! Ah, the wonders of sixites Detriot Soul eh?
A further point of interest is that the song was also produced by Don Davis with Johnny Taylor and released on the Stax label. Although this is a great version, it is considerably funkier and I feel it has lost that 'Detroit Sound', in fact I know a few people who would swear it's a different record!
1967 saw the release of two more records on GrooVesville. First up was "Don't Make Me a Story Teller" b/w "I Wont Love You And Leave You" - GV1005. "Story Teller" is a lovely ballad in a simlar vein to "I dont Want To Lose You." It was covered by that legendary Chicago outfit The Dells in the early 70s and that too is a wonderful record.
The second release of 1967 was "Just Keep On Loving Me" b/w "Sweet Baby Dont Ever Be Untrue" GV 1007. The A side, although a dancer, is one of Steves recordings that has never really taken off in the clubs (it also failed to chart). There are at least two more versions of "Just Keep on Loving Me" one by King Bee And The Sensations and one featured here by Lee Jennings on Star Track Records. This song really does deserve more turntable action. The Steve Mancha version just shades the others but all three are quality examples of the eras best soul records.
1969 saw Steve's career switch to a different label Groove City. Different label, same people and set up. The first single released by Steve on this label was "A Love Like Yours" b/w "Hate Yourself In The Morning" - GC 204. Written by Steve (under his real name and Don Davis), this song ("Hate Yourself In The Morning"), especially Steves rendition is a powerhouse of mid-tempo Detroit Soul at its very best. The credits on the label alone would be enough to get the soul fans attention.
A GrooVesville production, it features Steve on the production credits. Maybe Steve felt it was time to put the lessons learned from his mentor Don Davis to the test.
The result is a stunning vocal peformance interloping with a fantastic bass and drum led mid-tempo beat that uses the signature vibes so loved by soul fans everywhere.
This is not the only Groove City record by Steve to be a sought after item. In my opinion the best was yet to come.
The group known as The Holidays (this time minus Edwin Starr), went into the studio and recorded one of the greatest double siders of all time. The record was "Easy Living" b/w "I Lost You" - Groove City 206. "Easy Living" is one of the best mid-tempo records you will ever hear, the production, by a certain Jack Ashford (who also appears on the writing credits, along with Bobbie C. Croft), is awesome, as you would expect from a member of the legendary Pied Piper Production Team. The song contains a beautiful string arrangement that is reminiscent of Paul Riser's similar work at Motown. Steve's lead vocal is great foil to the skills of all involved. A great record in all departments.
The flipside, "I Lost You," is also a song written and produced by a Detroit icon, Tony Hestor. Although Mr Hestor is probably best known as half the duo of Wylie/Hestor because of their prolific output of sheer quality records. Tony Hestor was a superb songwriter, producer and artist in his own right, as this awesome song showcases. Although credited to The Holidays, this is 100% Mancha, and Mancha at his very best!
The deep bass and powerful drum intro just makes your ears prick up as you know from the opening refrains that this is something special. Steves vocal just about drips with passion that only the 'Real Deal' soul-singers can get away with. A mid-tempo dancer it's a masterpiece of mid-sixities Detroit soul music.
It is this side that is popular with the Northern Soul dance floors and the record comes under the 'Hard To Find' category with copies changing hands for large sums of money.
The next couple of records we take a look at from Steve in this first part of his musical journey never saw a release at the time they were recorded. Long time collector and Detroit soul fan Martin Koppell gained access to the Solid Hitbound/GrooVesville masters and whilst working on the material came across a number of unreleased items that found their way to issue on the UK Goldmine's Connoisseur/Sevens labels. All are of quite extraordinary quality and should have a home in every Detroit collectors boxes.
Melvin Davis & Steve Mancha - "I Need My Baby" - Sevens G0001X. This UK issue only 45 features an absolute Northern Soul classic that was recorded and issued on Revilot records by Jackey Beavers. It's a fantastic song and the duet by the guys laid in the vaults for over 25 years. Was released when Goldmine were at the embryonic stage of their vinyl reissuing and it formed part of a series of GrooVesville masters that were unreleased until Goldmine put them out in the late 90s. All are fantastic Detroit sides that rank with the best of the genre.
The same with the next record featured here. Steve Mancha - "He Stole A Love That Was Mine" - GrooVesville - GV2. A great mid-tempo sort of float along song written by Steve himself. Again a UK only issue 45 but this time it's manufactured in the large spindle hole style of a US record. A nice touch, that would have been nicer in my opinion if the guys had issued it on the original Red and White label of the company. I always liked the 60's, funky GrooVesville label design. Both these records are good examples of the depth of material that the Detroit music scene of the era was producing. To have records of this quality 'canned' is a real tribute to the stuff that did get a release at the time. These formats are the only way to own the records on vinyl, it gives them kind of "legitimate" status in the strange world of Northern Soul vinyl collecting.
We should at this stage also just give a mention to a few records that Steve Mancha is believed to have been involved with. I'm sure there are a hundred different myths regarding who did what in Detroit in the mid 60's and doubt there'll be a hundred more before we really get all the info, but here's three records that Steve is supposed to have been involved with that will be well known to most collectors fans.
Emanuel Lasky - "Lucky To Be Loved By You" b/w "Our World" - Wild Duece 1003. Steve is reputed to have performed the backing singing duties of this 45. Even if he didn't it's a great record and included here for you to listen to and decide for yourself.
The Holidays are a difficult group to pin down. The name 'The Holidays' and eventually 'The New Holidays' conjure up the likes of JJ Barnes, Edwin Starr, Steve Mancha and Eddie Anderson. Unfortunately they were only a part of the story. Tracks were laid down and vocals dubbed at later dates, line up changed the group eventually moved to SoulHawk and it all becomes a little blurry!
The date of The Holidays Revilot recordings would definitely fit with Steve's involvement in the group and Don Davis was still at the helm of the productions. The writing credits show no C Wilson so that doesn't help either! Either way ... here are a couple of the Revilot records released by the group and readers/listeners can try and work out the vocalists for themselves.
The Holidays - "Never Alone b/w "Loves Creeping Up On Me" - Revilot 205. A typical misplaced dancer that utilizes a piano/vibe combo on the strong drum beat so synonymous with Don Davis and LeBaron Taylor's productions The vocal on Never Alone may well be Mancha. There are certain inflection's that remind the listener of Mancha's tell tale strains. Either way it's a another quality record that has been tragically overlooked over the years by 'oldie' DJ's too happy to stay within the same safe 200 records.
The Holidays - "I Keep Holding On" b/w "I Know She Cares" - Revilot 211 is another record that shows how the 'sound' of the era was developing. An almost sweet soul start to the song, "I Keep Holding On," gives way to more recognizable Detroit sound and the vocal switches from a loping, almost speaking part to a powerful pleading sound all within the space of a few seconds.
If anyone could confirm the line up of 'The Holidays' Revilot performances we'd be very grateful.
We have now reached the end of Part 1 of Steve Mancha's Story. This, however is not the end. Part 2 of his story which investigates and showcases his work with Holland Dozier Holland and his contribution to Hotwax, Invictus as a key player in the groups 8th Day and 100% Proof Aged In Soul will be on the site shortly, so keep checking back ...
... to be continued!
Alan Pollard , December 2005