Sylvester Mike

vocalist from Oho, a student at NC A&T
Sylvester “Tabu” Mike, vocalist, “I Heard You Say”

When Tabu Mike traveled to Greenville to record “Pitch a Boogie Woogie,” he was a student at North Carolina A&T College in Greensboro, where the Rhythm Vets had formed after World War II. From Steubenville, Ohio, Mike and his brother, Ross Mike, both played football at A&T, where Mike got his nickname. Ross Mike recalled: “I played tackle on the team, with Andy Pryor and Joe Williams. Syl played in the backfield.” Tabu transferred from A&T to UCLA, where he also played football. After a short pro career, he later lived in Detroit, Newark, and Los Angeles. “He was a professional musician all his life,” Ross Mike said, “but he didn’t have any formal training. He was a natural.” Ross said his brother picked up his nickname while at A&T but that he didn’t know why. Evelyn Whorton’s intro of him in “Pitch” offers a hint–she calls him “that handsome hunk of masculinity.” 

He sometimes worked with the Rhythm Vets and traveled with them in July 1947 to make “Pitch.” His song is the only one in “Pitch” performed with the Rhythm Vets, who were hired to re-make the soundtrack after difficulties arose with the music recorded by Don Dunning and his Orchestra. Warner subsequently recorded the Vets as they watched the songs and dances played silently from those previously recorded performances.

Five Sylvester Mike recordings were included on Blue Moon’s 1998 “Clyde Bernhardt, Complete Recordings vol. 2”:  “Rubberleg Woman” and “A Thousand Things on My Mind,” which were released in Los Angeles by Downbeat Records in 1948; “Fish House Boogie” and “That Will Get It,” Modern Records, also in Los Angeles, 1948; and “Going Out,” and “Wise Woman.”

UCLA all-time doesn’t list any players with Mike surname, but he was an all-star back with the Windsor Rockets in 1949, when he was 22, and Rockets info indicates he played at UCLA; he was one of 6 who played in all 12 of the Rockets games that year.

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References

Bernhardt, Clyde. Complete Recordings vol. 2, 1949-1953. Barcelona, Spain: Blue Moon 1998.

Mike, Ross. Telephone interview. 6 Aug. 1986.

1949 Ontario Rugby Football Union All-Stars 1949 in Canadian Football, the Info List.com. 28 Jan. 2023

“3 Americans on ORFU All-Stars: Tigers Cap 6 Spots.” Ottawa Citizen. 18 Nov. 49: 29.