The Record Keepers: Mike Dutkewych

Saver of Detroit’s soul (records)
Mike Dutkewych
Mike Dutkewych

Mike Dutkewych’s got soul. And R&B. And early rock ’n’ roll. His collection of about 2,500 45s and 1,000 LPs in these genres fuels Dutkewych’s vinyl-only DJ biz, Soul Deep, but the heart of his collection comes straight from the dustiest corners of the Motor City.

“I am especially interested in artists and labels from Detroit, and gravitate more toward obscure records that were not commercially successful,” says Dutkewych, a multimedia specialist at Wayne State University. “I do love Motown and the undeniable artists and songs that label gave us, but there is a whole different dimension of intrigue I find in the music that failed to compete with the Motown juggernaut and failed to make it out of Detroit back then. In fact, I recently launched a podcast dedicated to that very subject:”

The thrill of discovering a lost Michigan record or a new-to-him 45 is what drives Dutkewych, who studies vinyl labels for clues, looking for “a Detroit address; a songwriter credit I recognize; or the general look of a simple, two-color print design common to so many of the best short-run, low-budget productions of the 1950s and early ’60s. I’ll pull those out of a stack to needle-drop every time. Sometimes they’re absolute gold. But usually they’re chud.”

Dutkewych began his collection by buying punk-rock records as a teen, even though he didn’t have a turntable. It took him another 10 years to find his “soul” mates.

“My collection of soul music began with a copy of ‘Heat Wave’ by Martha and the Vandellas,” Dutkewych says. “Motown was my gateway to the music of the 1960s, which has been my passion ever since. One record led to another and then another, and before I knew it, I was in the middle of what felt like a great excavation project.”

The Ferndale-based Dutkewych still counts the “Heat Wave” 45 among his most-prized records, along with the singles “Misery” by The Dynamics and “I Had a Dream” by Nathaniel Mayer.

Recent favorite finds include “Miss Stronghearted” by Bobbie Smith; the first three Reggie Milner records on Ron’s Records; and The Utopias’ record on the Fortune label.

Dutkewych’s bin-digging days are fewer now because, he says, “most of my records come from other collectors or private dealers.” But he knows if he wants to spend a day excavating for more rare gems, he’s in the right place to dig deep.

“Hands down, Detroit has the best record stores on the planet for the type of music I collect,” Dutkewych says. “Peoples Records in Eastern Market and Hello Records in Corktown have customers visiting from all over the world to find rare music from Detroit.”