Throughout the years, there have been many popular nightclubs that catered to African Americans. Among them were Phelp’s Lounge, Watts Club Mozambique, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (still active under new ownership), the Flame Show Bar, Henry’s Cocktail Lounge, Mr. Kelly’s, Dummy George’s, Ethel’s Cocktail Lounge and Ben’s High Chaparral, plus many others.
But none were as popular or as fondly recalled as the 20 Grand, located on West Warren and 14th Street.
Owned by Bill Kabbush and Marty Eisner, the 20 Grand opened its doors in 1953. For the rest of that decade and through most of the 1960s it was the place to go. But, of course, you had to “get sharp” first.
It was a beautiful place. There was the Driftwood Lounge and the Fireside Lounge. Above the bowling alley was the Gold Room.
Virtually all of the top stars of the day performed at the 20 Grand, generally doing a week or two-week stint.
The emcee most closely associated with the 20 Grand is the late, great “Frantic” Ernie Durham, one of the kings of Detroit radio. Earlier, many shows were emceed by Ziggy Johnson, a Detroit tap dancer who, like Durham, is a legend.