Baker's Keyboard 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 in 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's is noted for its long history of presenting local and major jazz acts, its excellent acoustics, its intimacy - seating only 99, its Art Deco furnishings, including a distinctive, piano-shaped bar painted with a keyboard motif, Art Deco style paintings of European city landscapes by Harry Julian Carew, tilted mirrors that allow patrons to view the pianist's hands, and its Steinway piano which was selected and purchased in New York by Tatum for Clarence in the 1950s. The club still displays its original liquor pricelist from 1934, showing the price of beer at 26 cents.
In 1986, Baker's was designated as an Historic Site by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office. The historic significance of the site is stated as follows:
Baker's Keyboard Lounge has significance as Michigan's jazz mecca and Detroit's oldest jazz club in continuous operation. Founded in May 1933 by Chris Baker as a restaurant and piano bar, the present jazz orientation of the club has been firmly in place since 1939. Baker's Keyboard Lounge has hosted the greatest names in blues and jazz since that date. Some of the musicians who have played the club include: Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, Sarah Vaughn, Joe Williams, Maynard Ferguson, Cab Calloway, Woody Herman, Modern Jazz Quartet, and Nat "King" Cole; to name but a few.
In 1984, Baker's Keyboard Lounge celebrated fifty-years of the sound of jazz in Detroit and Michigan.
The band was excellent (Next Phase) No cover charge on a Sunday night also open Mic on second set. The musicians and singers were really good but the waitress was not very attentive we had to ask multiple times for water Etc. The catfish was delicious the mac and cheese was okay it's been better in the past the greens were pretty good. They no longer serve corn bread so that was a disappointment.. My son's chicken tasted like it had been cooked in fish Grease and one of my friend's turkey chops tasted like pork chops. Overall I had a great time.
This is DETROIT! The food is fabulous. They have the best fried chicken and catfish in metro Detroit. The drinks are strong. The music is PHENOMENAL! You never know who will show up in the audience at he historic Baker's!
My wife and I were there on Friday celebrating our Anniversary. The music as usual is always great. However it seems the consistent complaint that I think Bakers should listen to is the customer service and food. The chicken wings which are usually good had absolutely no flavor this time. My cousin had a plate of sides that was cold. Our friend had Catfish that was under cooked. When a complaint was made it seemed like the gentleman was annoyed. I think that needs improvement immediately or the bad reviews will continue no matter how good the music is. I hope you listen to your customers.
So much history packed into the walls of this quaint landmark! Be prepared to sit up close to the person next to you, if you want to pop in without reservations. The food was awesome and plentiful, just like the live Jazz resonating throughout the room. If you love live Jazz this is the oldest and most amazing spot forjust that!
Monica Marie Jones
The food is SO good and the live music is always on point. This is the perfect place for a date night because they have these small and cozy booths that force you to sit close to your honey.