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Detroit Night Clubs

Detroit was packed with nightclubs, bars and after-hour spots that were frequented by local and world renowned musicians, singers, dancers, and comedians from the 1920s until the 1960s. Greats like Earl Walton, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Alberta Adams, Billy Eckstine, Pearl Bailey, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, the Nicholas Brothers, King Cole Trio, Dinah Washington, Lena Horn, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, graced Paradise Valley in its heyday at nightclubs like Club Plantation, the B&C Club, Club 666, Club El Sino, the Cozy Corner and the Forest Club to name a few.

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As with a lot of things, race played a part in the entertainment industry.  Although most of the nightclubs in Paradise Valley were Black and Tans, meaning they served both black and white customers, black Detroiters were not allowed in a number of clubs in the city and surrounding areas.  One such bar was the Bowery located in Hamtramck.   According to Sunnie Wilson in Toast of the Town, the Bowery would not serve blacks.

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Before the Motown sound became famous, Detroit already had a reputation among musicians.  Many came here to learn from the greats, to try out new material, or to cultivate their sound.  Detroit was a place where many tried to find their fame.  One such person seeking fame was Mattye Gaither.

Mattye started out as a dancer.  She was part of Bettie Taylor’s dancing crew the Taylorettes in the 1940s and performed in Club 666.  By the mid-1950s she was billed as a rhythm and blues and swing singer performing at Club 509 and the Flame Show Bar.

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Mattye Gaither

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But it was not just musicians and singers that contributed to the entertainment industry.  Many dancers and comedians cut their teeth here as well.

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The Alvito Bar was an Italian owned bar just outside of Paradise Valley located at 3600 Russell at Mack Ave.  It did not pull in the big named acts but still was a noted spot.

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