Spotlight: Mingering Mike

Mingering Mike, where musical fact and fiction collide

Spotlight: Mingering Mike
Illustration by Mingering Mike

8pm-2am, Club de Ville

Mingering Mike isn't the greatest soul singer you've never heard of. He's the greatest soul singer who never existed. He made more than 50 albums on dozens of labels, 1968-1977, including political manifestos like Boogie Down at the White House, the soundtrack to kung-fu classic Brother of the Dragon, and a benefit album for sickle-cell anemia.

The albums were fakes, unfortunately, not pressed in wax but cut from cardboard with hand-painted grooves and intricately drawn homemade covers, the product of the elaborate imagination of a fictitious soul superstar. Dori Hadar, a 33-year-old criminal investigator and record collector, stumbled across the cache at a Washington, D.C., flea market five years ago.

"I pulled out a curious album called the Mingering Mike Show Live From the Howard Theatre," he says. "It was hand-painted and had these crude drawings, and I thought, 'What the hell is this?'"

The songs from Mingering Mike's make-believe albums actually existed, and Hadar later found a cappella home recordings of the songs at the same flea market. That still left the question: Who's Mingering Mike? Using his investigation skills, Hadar tracked down the man behind the mystery and has since, with the artist's cooperation, released a book featuring the extraordinary art and imagination of Mingering Mike.

Mike, a 57-year-old Washington, D.C., resident, refuses to disclose his real name and wears a Jheri-curl wig, sunglasses, and fake mustache when appearing in public. Reality and fiction collide when MM takes the stage at SXSW 08 for the first time in his 40-year career, hosting the Ubiquity showcase tonight at Club de Ville.

"Mingering Mike is now real," Hadar says. "Putting on that costume allows him to be that imaginary figure he always wanted to be."

A Mingering Mike single was recently released on Vanguard, and a feature film about his life is in the works. "It's like a delayed Christmas gift," says Mingering Mike. "It's like your parents promise you that nice, shiny bike, but it might take 10 years before you get it."

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