Michaels' choice of the Hammond organ as his primary instrument was unusual for the time, as was his bare-bones stage and studio accompaniment: Usually just a single drummer, most often a musician known as "Frosty" (Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost) a member of Sweathog, or with Joel Larson of The Grass Roots. This unorthodox approach attracted a following in San Francisco, and some critical notice (Sounds reported that he had been called "the ultimate power organist"), but Michaels did not achieve real commercial success until the release of his fifth album.
Album Fifth (1971) produced a surprise USTop 10 hit (#6 in the fall of 1971), "Do You Know What I Mean", an autobiographical homage to the loss of a girlfriend, and a Top 40 follow-up, a cover version of the Motown standard, "Can I Get a Witness" (#39). Michaels recorded two more albums for A&M before signing a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1973. His Columbia recordings failed to generate much interest, and Michaels went into semi-retirement from the music industry by the end of the decade.