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Hanky Panky

Hanky Panky

In 1965, a local dance promoter, Bob Mack, found a copy of "Hanky Panky" in a used record bin and started playing it at his Pittsburgh dance clubs.[1][2] Soon after, a Pittsburgh area bootlegger made a copy of the song and began pressing copies of it, speeding it up slightly in the process.[3] Sales of the bootleg were estimated at 80,000 in ten days.[1][4] It became number one on Pittsburgh radio stations in early 1966.[4] Douglas heard about the record's sudden popularity in Pittsburgh because his name and location always appeared on Snap Records labels.[3] Numerous calls from Pittsburgh convinced James to go to Pennsylvania, where he met Mack and Chuck Rubin, who handled the talent bookings for Mack's dance clubs. Before long, all three major music trade papers, Billboard, Cashbox and Record World, were listing "Hanky Panky" as a regional breakout hit. Rubin, who had music industry connections, said it was a good time for the trio to travel to New York City in search of a record deal.[3]

The men made the rounds of the major recording labels, getting initial potential offers from most companies they visited. One label, Roulette Records, gave no initial response because its head, Morris Levy, was out of town until evening; Roulette was one of the last stops on their visit.[3] By the next morning, Mack, Rubin, and James were now receiving polite refusals from the major record companies after the enthusiasm for the record the day before. James said, "We didn't know what in the world was going on, and finally Jerry Wexler over at Atlantic leveled with us and said, 'Look, Morris Levy and Roulette called up all the other record companies and said, "This is my freakin' record." (laughs) and scared 'em all away – even the big corporate labels.'" Their only option would be to sign with Roulette.[4]