Detroit – On the corner of 8 Mile and Livernois stands a simple black and white building. Just driving by it, you may not guess that it happens to play a significant part in Detroit’s music history. It was the smooth rich sounds of jazz, and the popular musicians who played them, that made Baker’s Keyboard Lounge the icon it is today.
This place first opened in 1934 as a sandwich shop owned by Francis Baker. Her son, Clarence, was a fan of jazz music and used to host piano jam sessions at the restaurant in the evening. When Clarence took over the business, he made it his mission to get the best jazz musicians into Baker’s to perform. He became immersed in the jazz community and was soon getting world-class musicians to play at Baker’s. Some of the people who graced their stage include Louis Armstrong, Pat Metheny, Marcus Belgrave, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis and many more. In the beginning, Pat Flowers, who learned his trade from the famous Fats Waller, was the house pianist.
Over the 80 plus years since the lounge has been open, a lot has changed. It went through three eras of renovations, the biggest being in the 1950s when Clarence added the signature piano keyboard bar. He also added a lot of art deco touches throughout the restaurant, which are still there today.
Another change-up Clarence made was to the menu turning Baker’s into a supper club, and started offering steaks and other entrees, instead of sandwiches. Baker’s second owner changed the menu up, giving it a soul food focus, and by popular demand, it has stayed that way ever since.
Baker’s still has live performances every night. On Tuesdays through Sundays, you can listen to musicians, and on Mondays you can crack up with a comedian.
If you want to check out Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, they are located at 20510 Livernois Avenue on Detroit’s west side.