Baker Lounge

Baker Lounge

In 1933, Chris and Fannie Baker opened Baker’s as a lunchtime sandwich restaurant. In 1934, their son Clarence Baker began booking jazz pianists, but Baker’s was still known at that time principally as a restaurant. In 1939 Clarence, took over ownership after Chris had suffered from a stroke. That same year, Clarence began booking pianists from outside the Detroit area, although the club featured local pianist Pat Flowers from 1940 until 1954. In 1952, the club was expanded and remodeled to the Art Deco look that it retains today. By 1954, the business had rapidly expanded, and by the following year, Baker’s began featuring major jazz acts, notably Art Tatum who played the last two years of his life, including his last performance in April 1956, Dave Brubeck in 1957 and Gerry Mulligan in 1958. During the 1950s “modern” jazz was less common at Baker’s than it was in the 1960s, when the emphasis of the club’s music changed to Hard Bop. During the 1960s Clarence leased the club out, but resumed personal control in the 1970s.
baker lounge 1

Baker Lounge

The popularity of the club declined in the 1970s and 1980s, and was nearly closed on several occasions. In 1996, after owning the club for 57 years, Clarence Baker sold the club to John Colbert and Juanita Jackson. The new owners were challenged by declining interests in live jazz performances, due to the aging of the fanbase of jazz purists, a shift to mainstream jazz from the historic Hard Bop emphasis of the club, and the popularity of hip hop. The new ownership attempted to compensate with fundraisers, a reduction in bookings of nationally-known acts and emphasis on local artists, and diversifying the lineup to include R&B and comedy acts. The club experienced a resurgence in popularity, but the downturn in the economy led Colbert to declare bankruptcy in 2010, leading to widespread speculation that the club would finally close. In 2011, the club was purchased at a bankruptcy sale, by Hugh W. Smith III, who had been manager of the club for the past two years and Eric Whitaker Sr. Smith and Whitaker vowed to keep Baker’s open as a jazz club.
baker lounge 2

Baker Lounge

Baker's bills itself as “The world's oldest jazz club,” and, in the club's 76-year history, almost every jazz musician of national importance has played its bandstand. Baker's complements the music with some amazing down-home cooking, their catfish being a true showstopper. Live entertainment nightly, with metro Detroit's finest local musicians every weekend.

Baker Lounge

Baker Lounge
Baker Lounge
Baker Lounge
Baker Lounge

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