Born 21 November 1905
Irving Micahnik and his long-time partner Harry Balk were musical entrepreneurs in Detroit during the 1950s and 60s. They ran two companies, Talent Artists (a management agency) and Embee Productions (for producing records). Micahnik was the wheeler-dealer, Balk the man with the musical knowledge and the creative input. They had a variety of artists from the Detroit area on their roster, including Johnny and the Hurricanes, the Royaltones, Del Shannon, Max Crook (Maximilian), Mickey Denton, Jamie Coe, Johnny Gibson and Don and Juan.
Micahnik and Balk had their own label, Twirl Records ("Crossfire" by Johnny and the Hurricanes was first released on Twirl), but licensed most of their productions to Morty Craft's Warwick label, and from 1960 on to Big Top Records in New York. In Europe this label switch went unnoticed, as the output of both Warwick and Big Top was issued on London American in most European countries. (In Germany Big Top was licensed to Heliodor.)
Readers who have Johnny and the Hurricanes records in their collection will probably have noticed that the writing credit for the majority of their releases goes to King and Mack. Tom King was Harry Balk, Ira Mack was Irving Micahnik. They chose the simple way to "compose" music, opting for songs that were in the public domain and therefore out of copyright. This enabled them to mop up on all fronts, with their Vicki Publishing Company picking up the publishing royalties. "Red River Valley" became "Red River Rock", "Blue Tail Fly" became "Beatnik Fly", "There is a Tavern in the Town" was issued as "Rockin' T", etc. The Hurricanes, especially leader Johnny Paris, did the rehashing, but Mack and King got the credit. It was only later that Paris worked this out and managed to get credit for his contributions. "That was one of the mis- fortunes of being young in the music business", says Paris. "I was simply too naive".
The current BMI file has no entries for either Ira Mack or Irving Micahnik. All the songs that used to be credited to King / Mack are now registered as by Tom King and Johnny Paris (or Pocisk, his real name). There are still 94 entries for Tom King / Harry Balk, though. Apparently his musical input was of some substance, but the same cannot be said of Micahnik.
Balk and Micahnik were also notorious for taking 6,5% of the royalties (at least in the case of Johnny and the Hurricanes), leaving only 1,5% for the artists. Del Shannon, Embee's most famous act, who had been signed to a management/recording deal in 1960, also had his share of problems with Micahnik and Balk. In 1963 he issued a lawsuit against them for unpaid royalties, and promptly found himself blacklisted : nobody would touch him and he was subsequently unable to record. Obliged therefore to form a record company himself, he created the short-lived Berlee label, but faced grave distribution problems. In 1964 he switched to Amy Records, but his legal problems with Balk and Micahnik went on for almost another decade.
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