The greatest soul singer who never was

A lot of us daydream about being rock stars, but we usually limit our expression of the fantasy to private air-guitar solos and karaoke. Mingering Mike, a wanna-be soul singer in Washington, D.C., took things a step further. He never professionally recorded any music, but during the late ’60s and early ’70s, when he was in his teens and 20s, he hand-made scores of albums out of cardboard.

Each one featured both a fake disc and a fake sleeve; they looked like real releases, but as you can see in the new book Mingering Mike (out now), they were in fact sweet, fully imagined works of outsider art.

In 2003, record collector Dori Hadar found Mike’s albums at a D.C. flea market. Hadar, who has a day job as a criminal investigator, had the resources to track Mike down and work with him to produce the book. The wishful cover art and titles such as Boogie Down at the White House and Brother of the Dragon, make the faux records little triumphs of imagination over reality.

VISIT the Mingering Mike Website to see examples of Mike’s art

BUY Mingering Mike (Princeton Architectural Press; 192 pages; paperback)

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here.

The greatest soul singer who never was