g Re: [Dixielandjazz] Clarence Baker Obit.
dingle at baldwin-net.com
Mon Sep 29 19:15:50 PDT 2003
Rob et al:
Baker's may have been one of the oldest jazz club's but it would have to go
back another decade or so to top the Green Mill in Chicago. It was a
northside bar that featured ragtime and then jazz as it became the vogue in
Chicago. It was a favorite stop for Big Al Capone, and a table at the back
was always reserved for him at all times.
There have been some greats of early jazz to play there, and the club is
still going with a jazz policy to this day.
It was a "speak" in the prohibition period, booze supplied by Capone. The
Green Mill goes back to near the turn of the 1900's and is still in
business, jazz ploicy intact.
PD -- No argument that Baker's in Detroit has a great jazz history in its
own and certainly has earned a respectible place in jazz history in the
--- Original Message -----
From: "Rob McCallum" <rakmccallum at hotmail.com>
To: "Andy Buck" <abaemt at wideopenwest.com>
Cc: "McCallum, Annemarie" <annemarie_mccallum at BUDCO.com>; "Nancy Giffin"
<nancyink at ulink.net>; "steven m andrews" <petersdaddy at yahoo.com>; "Jack
Pierson" <jackpier at hotmail.com>; "Margaret Marshall"
<gothiccontent at hotmail.com>; "Marie Nies" <sistermagpie at earthlink.net>;
"Paula Durant" <Paula_m_Durant at hotmail.com>; "djml"
<dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>; "David Wickham" <dwickham at twmi.rr.com>;
"Andrea Still" <andreastill at msn.com>; "Keith Thompson"
<keiththompson at pendacorp.com>; <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
Sent: Monday, September 29, 2003 2:36 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Clarence Baker Obit.
> Another sad day.
> > The following article has been sent to you from the Detroit Free Press
> > Published September 29, 2003
> > http://www.freep.com/news/obituaries/bak29_20030929.htm
> > Clarence Baker: Beloved longtime owner of Keyboard Lounge
> > BY MARK STRYKER
> > FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
> > Every time Clarence Baker tried to get out of the jazz business, the
> lured him home with the siren song of a lover. Baker bought and sold
> Keyboard Lounge, the legendary club at Livernois and 8 Mile, so many times
> that the plot takes on the complexity of a Russian novel.
> > But it all comes down to this: Jazz in Detroit never had a better friend
> or more passionate advocate than Baker, who died Sunday at Beaumont
> in Royal Oak. He was 93.
> > "Something was missing from my life, and it was this place," he told the
> Free Press in 1994, after buying back the club yet again. "I devoted over
> years to the jazz field, and it meant something to me. It's hard to
> > Baker, whose gentle soul and quiet manner belied the fury of his
> commitment to jazz, turned the cozy restaurant that he inherited from his
> father into one of the major jazz clubs in America. Baker's, which still
> showcases jazz, turns 70 in 2004 and has a legitimate claim as oldest jazz
> club in the world.
> > The famous musicians who worked at Baker's during its glory days from
> 1950s through the 1970s included John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Dave
> Brubeck, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Max
> Roach, Kenny Burrell and Stan Getz. Baker also booked the best Detroiters,
> and a first gig at Baker's was a rite of passage for several generations
> Detroit musicians.
> > The club's intimacy (it seats about 100), acoustics, talent roster,
> noirish decor and hipster vibe made it a favorite of aficionados. But it
> Baker who was ultimately responsible for the club's magical atmosphere of
> after-hours cool melded with familial warmth. Rarely are jazz club owners
> > "Clarence really understood the music," says veteran Detroit saxophonist
> Larry Nozero. "He understood the struggle us artists go through to exist,
> and he provided so many opportunities for so many people. He was always
> congenial. He was a true gentleman."
> > Baker loved the club so much that even when financial headaches or
> problems forced him out of the business, he always hedged his bet. John
> Colbert, who bought the club in 1996, says that the five or so previous
> times Baker sold the club, he retained control of the real estate, selling
> only the management side of the business and arranging lease agreements.
> > Each time a new owner ran into trouble, Baker returned to save the club.
> He finally sold the entire package, real estate and all, to Colbert, but
> only after he was convinced that the club would remain viable and devoted
> > Clarence Baker was born on Feb. 22, 1910, in Jackson, Tenn. His father,
> Chris, opened Baker's as a restaurant in 1934. Baker convinced his father
> add a piano as a way to boost business in the evenings.
> > "I bought it for about $35," Baker told the Free Press in 1988. "Then we
> hired a local pianist, and people would feed the kitty. They'd put money
> there, and we'd get about $5 or $10 a night. It caught on, and the place
> very busy."
> > Baker took over running the club in 1939 when his father became ill.
> Author Lars Bjorn writes in "Before Motown," a history of Detroit jazz,
> the main attraction in 1940-54 was Detroit pianist Pat Flowers.
> Baker stopped serving food and broadened the menu of music. (Colbert has
> reopened the kitchen with a soul-food menu.)
> > The club's current art deco look dates to a 1952 remodeling. The great
> jazz pianist Art Tatum helped pick out the club's first grand piano in the
> mid-'50s. Modern jazz became a fixture at Baker's in the late 1950s, and
> 1957, Baker installed the club's trademark curved bar decorated as a
> > The club became a fixture on the national scene, with top talent booked
> the week. Business began to sour in the late '70s, when the decline of the
> city and rising costs made it increasingly difficult to turn a profit.
> > Baker sold the club in 1963 and opened a supper club, the Act IV, near
> Fisher Theatre. After Act IV folded in 1969, Baker did stints as the
> of several nightspots, including the London Chop House, before regaining
> complete ownership of Baker's in 1974. Baker tried to retire several times
> in the 1980s and '90s but always ended up retaking control of the club.
> > Baker is survived by his wife, Kay. Services are pending at Wm. R.
> Hamilton Co. of Birmingham. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests
> donations be made to American Cancer Society. To donate, call
> > In recent years, Baker would stop by the club that still bears his name
> for special occasions. And each time, he would always tell Colbert the
> thing: "Not a day goes by that I don't pray for you to succeed and for the
> club to be a success."
> > Copyright © 2003 Detroit Free Press Inc.
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