Trending
Most Read
  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

Calendar

Calendar

Search thousands of events in our database.

Restaurants

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Nightlife

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

MT on Twitter
MT on Facebook

Print Email

Culture

Club respect

Detroit's oldest blues bar once entertained Motown greats, and it's still a well-kept secret

Photo: Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

Photo: Detroitblogger John

Doc Holliday and his wife, Louise, at the Raven.


The first thing you notice here are the colorful suits. Nearly everyone has one on. Because when you come to the Raven Lounge and Restaurant to hear the blues, you come looking good.

"People dress up at the Raven," says Tommy Stephens, the bar's owner. He always refers to his place reverentially, by its name. "They come in with suits on and ties on. You're very seldom gonna see an extremely casual person in the Raven."

And what suits they are. Like the purple-and-white plaid three-piece worn by the man lounging at a table. The lavender one on the sharp-looking cat leaning against the bar. And the brown one draped on the man who chose to pair it this evening with a bowler hat.

It's Saturday night at this little east side lounge on the corner of Chene and Farnsworth. The band on stage plays midtempo Motown and blues at a muted volume that fills but doesn't overwhelm the small room. The audience, dressed in their peacocking finery, watches intently.

This is not background music. It's the kind that makes people stop talking when it begins.

The Raven bills itself as Detroit's oldest blues bar. It's also one of the city's last live blues venues. And it's one of the only bars left on a strip that was lined with them years ago. That means on most nights, some band plays some great music to a half-empty room on a mostly deserted street.

After half a century, the Raven remains obscure. There are no ads in newspapers for it. Local entertainment guides don't list it, and most who come here heard about it from someone else. It's the kind of place that would have a line outside the door if it were anywhere but inner city Detroit.

Instead, on this night, there are about 10 people who have this place — its music, its atmosphere, its history — all to themselves.

"People become a little jealous of the Raven," the 64-year-old Stephens says, explaining the thin crowd at a bar where Motown legends used to drop in to play for free. "They say, 'I don't want to invite my friends in here; I just want this place to be just for me and my boyfriend.' That's one of the reasons that we've been like a well-kept secret. It's been almost like a family affair."


The Raven
opened in the 1950s, when its white owners would hire black musicians to play to white crowds but wouldn't allow black patrons inside. By the '60s, they saw the faces in the neighborhood changing and sold it to Sam and Myrtle Watts, a black couple who, first thing, let anyone inside who wanted to be there.

For years this was Stephens' hangout. Born in Florida, he came to Detroit after college in Ohio, looking to work with troubled students.

"I wanted to teach wayward kids and I asked to be placed in a very difficult school," he says. They gave him a job in special ed, teaching those who'd shifted there for behavioral issues. "I found out that many of these youngsters were not really retarded," he says. "There's a difference between being three grades behind and being innately impaired. And many of them, they had assaulted a teacher or been in fights, so they were railroaded into special education. I saw it my job to get them out of there."

His fellow teachers, who gathered at the Raven every day after work to unwind with some of the best jazz and blues in town, turned him on to the place. "Ninety-five percent of all of my alcohol in Detroit was drank in here," he says. Then Sam Watts died in 1992, and his widow offered Stephens first dibs on buying the place. He jumped at the chance to keep his favorite bar alive. Her one condition — don't change anything.

He didn't. The music's the same kind it's always been. The recipes for the food they serve, from the chicken wings and catfish sandwiches to chitterlings and T-bones, are the same ones they used in the 1950s.

The decor is still old-style too. The walls are lined with black-and-white photos of jazz and blues icons like Billie Holiday, B.B. King and Johnny Taylor. Banners around the room exclaim "Happy Birthday!" like a permanent party for everyone in attendance regardless of the date. There's a long bar and a floor full of tables, and every seat has a good view of the stage.

Cover is $5. The doorman will escort you inside to a table. If it's raining they walk you to your car and hold an umbrella over you. It's old-time and gentle-mannered, because Stephens is determined to keep it a sanctuary from the blighted neighborhood outside.

"We keep the riff-raffs out the door," Stephens says. "We have a motto in here saying, 'Don't invite somebody in here unless you want them in your living room.'"

He knows a place like this can't draw customers if they don't feel safe. So when he took over, he approached the drug dealers and prostitutes who roam Chene Street at night, and told them the zone between Frederick and Theodore, which stretches a block to either side of his bar, is off limits.

Don't work that strip, he warned them.

"That's the Raven's territory," he says. "We control this area."


The man in
the sunglasses wandered in with nothing but a trombone in his hands.

Toney High came to Detroit a month ago to see the Detroit International Jazz Festival and try to find a steady gig. He has lived in Texas, Brooklyn, most recently in Saginaw. He started playing trombone in seventh grade, got his first live gigs at 15. He's so in love with playing music he hopped in his car and drove to Detroit with nothing but his horn and blind hope.

"My mother always told me, she fusses at me now — 'Why do you wanna go there? You don't have no money to get back. You barely got enough money to get there,'" the 49-year-old says.

For now he's sleeping in his car, "until I'm able to find a room here or something. But my car is not the best. It's about falling apart." He spent most days after he got here practicing or performing on street corners, waiting for something to turn up. Meantime, someone told him about the Raven.

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus