Discovering an Imaginary Soul Star

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A decade ago, criminal investigator and part-time DJ Dori Hadar headed to his favorite flea market to dig through some records. He was there early, and he hit it big. “There were about 2000, so I had first crack at them,” he recalls. In one of the boxes, he made a bizarre discovery: about 40 soul albums by an artist Hadar had never heard of, someone named “Mingering Mike.” Hadar was suspicious. “I definitely would have heard of someone named Mingering Mike if he existed,” he said. Something was off about the covers, too — they were in the style of 60s and 70s soul album art, but they were hand-painted. And inside, instead of vinyl records were perfectly cut platters of cardboard, with grooves and labels painted on.

Intrigued, Hadar put his investigative skills to work. A few weeks later, he found himself face-to-face with Mingering Mike himself and discovered that Mike’s career wasn’t a hoax. Mike had composed songs since the late ‘60s, recording some of them at home, but they were never pressed onto vinyl. Instead, he created his own imaginary record label and a star persona for himself, even tracking his fictional rise up the charts.

Even though, four decades later, Mike doesn’t want his real name used, Mingering Mike’s collection of work is currently showing in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Hadar says, “While Mike took all this seriously, I think he played around with it quite a bit. He just had an amazing, amazing imagination."  

(Originally aired May 25, 2007)

Bonus Track: Mingering Mike and Dori Hadar describe the funkiest Kung-Fu movie soundtrack never made — and the more serious album The Drug Store.

 

Slideshow: Mingering Mike's albums

Music Playlist

  1. Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)

    Artist: The Temptations
    Album: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best Of The Temptations, Vol. 2 - The '70s, '80s, '90s
    Label: Motown
  2. Be Yourself

    Artist: Isaac Hayes
    Album: Shaft (Deluxe Edition)
    Label: Stax
  3. Walk From Reggio's

    Artist: Isaac Hayes
    Album: Shaft (Deluxe Edition)
    Label: Stax
<em>Boogie Down to the White House</em>
Boogie Down to the White House ( Mingering Mike/Princeton Architectural Press )
<em>On the Beach with the Sexorcist</em>
On the Beach with the Sexorcist ( Mingering Mike/Princeton Architectural Press )
<em>Sickle Cell Anemia</em>
Sickle Cell Anemia ( Mingering Mike/Princeton Architectural Press )
<em>You Know Only What They Tell You</em>
You Know Only What They Tell You ( Mingering Mike/Princeton Architectural Press )
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