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Detroit Night Clubs

Detroit was teeming with nightclubs, bars, and after-hour spots that attracted both local talents and world-renowned musicians, singers, dancers, and comedians from the 1920s to the 1960s. Icons such as 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 Horne, and Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson graced Paradise Valley during its heyday. These luminaries performed at renowned nightclubs like Club Plantation, the B&C Club, Club 666, Club El Sino, the Cozy Corner, and the Forest Club, among others.

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As with many aspects of society, race played a significant role in the entertainment industry. While most nightclubs in Paradise Valley were "Black and Tans," serving both black and white customers, black Detroiters faced discrimination in several clubs within the city and its surrounding areas. One notable example was the Bowery located in Hamtramck. According to Sunnie Wilson in "Toast of the Town," the Bowery refused to serve black patrons.

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Before the Motown sound gained prominence, Detroit had already established itself as a destination for musicians. Many flocked here to study under esteemed mentors, experiment with new material, or refine their musical style. Detroit served as a launching pad for aspiring artists seeking fame and recognition. One such individual was Mattie (sometimes spelled Mattye) Gaither.

Mattie initially embarked on her career as a dancer, being part of Betty Taylor’s dancing crew, the Taylorettes, in the 1940s, and gracing the stage of Club 666. By the mid-1950s, she transitioned into a rhythm and blues and swing singer, headlining performances at Club 509 and the Flame Show Bar.

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Mattie Gaither

It wasn't only musicians and singers who made significant contributions to the entertainment industry. Many dancers and comedians also honed their craft in Detroit.

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The Alvito Bar, an Italian-owned establishment located just outside of Paradise Valley at 3600 Russell at Mack Ave, may not have hosted the big-name acts, but it still held its own as a notable spot.

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This picture is courtesy of Ms. Estella Rowe, who graciously shared memories of her childhood in Detroit. The beautiful woman in the image is her stylish Aunt Birdie, accompanied by a gentleman friend.

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