Detroit has had tremendous impact on the world of music. Detroit bands such as McKinney's Cotton Pickers and the Jean Goldkette Orchestra pioneered early development of big band jazz in the 1920s. And legendary bluesmen such as John Lee Hooker moved to Detroit from the Mississippi Delta, working factories during the day and at night belting out what has become known as Detroit Blues. In the 1960s, artists such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5 created the infamous Motown Sound. The MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Bob Seger, and Ted Nugent thrust Detroit powerfully into the Rock and Roll scene of the 1970s. The musical ingenuity continued into the 1980s and 1990s as "The Belleville Three" fused disco, electronic dance, and house music into Techno, now a worldwide phenomenon. And of course, we can't forget the immensely popular fixtures of today's Detroit music scene, Kid Rock and Eminem!
Visit the pages below to find out more on Detroit's significant influence on the world of music and the major performance venues where you can catch a show while you're in town.
Detroit's Music Heritage
In the early 1900s, large numbers of southerners flocked to Detroit for good-paying jobs in the booming automotive industry. Due to segregation and restrictions on buying and renting property in the City, most of these migrants settled in a neighborhood that became known as Black Bottom, or Paradise Valley. It is here that Detroit's music legacy began, as Jazz and Blues greats forged the basis for future generations of musicians in Detroit, nationally, and around the world.
Detroit's Jazz heyday was in the 1920s, when the biggest names in music played ballrooms and clubs on legendary Hastings Street in Paradise Valley. Jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Count Basie performed regularly at the majestic Graystone Ballroom, where Detroit's own McKinney's Cotton Pickers and the Jean Goldkette Orchestra perfected the Big Band Jazz style. While neither Paradise Valley nor the Graystone exist today, their legacies live on in the spirit of Detroit's modern-day Jazz artists and in the highly acclaimed Detroit International Jazz Festival held at Hart Plaza each Labor Day weekend.
Like many other Paradise Valley residents, John Lee Hooker moved north from the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s. Hooker brought with him not only a desire for factory work, but also the foundations of the Delta Blues. He, along with other Detroit bluesmen such as Baby Boy Warren, Calvin Frazier, and Bobo Jenkins transformed traditional Delta Blues with electric amplified instruments and the infusion of a more eclectic assortment of instruments such as the bass and piano. They worked in factories during the day and at night performed at classic Hastings Street clubs such as the Flame Show Bar, Three Star Bar, and Forest Club. Hooker went on to become internationally famous and perhaps the greatest Blues performer of all time with his unique brand of foot-stomping boogie. Despite their significant influence, Detroit's other bluesmen were less prolific due to the lack of record labels in Detroit at the time. Sadly, Hastings Street is no longer and is now buried beneath the Chrysler Freeway (I-75). However, the sounds of that era are captured in the extensive recordings of John Lee Hooker and the rarer performances of the other Detroit bluesmen.
Detroit Soul & the Motown Sound
Detroit's brand of Soul emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s from Gospel and R&B performers such as Aretha Franklin, known as the "Queen of Soul" and generally regarded as one of the greatest vocalists of all time. Local songwriter and record producer Berry Gordy, Jr. built on Aretha's early Detroit success, growing his rag tag Motown label from a startup business to what became by the mid-70s the largest independent record company in the world. The "Motown Sound" was the springboard that launched the careers of dozens of famous musicians. Visit the Motown Historical Museum for more!
Rock & Roll
While Motown generated hit after hit of the more innocent variety, an underground "garage band" movement was forming in Detroit in the late 1960s. The MC5 pioneered this movement, combining fast-paced, aggressive guitar work with gritty and occasionally political lyrics. This new Detroit sound is credited with having inspired the punk rock genre a decade later.
Detroit greats such as Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, and Ted Nugent also emerged during this era. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the legendary Grande Ballroom fostered this Detroit talent and hosted the biggest names in rock and roll.