On a rainy Thursday night in June, Michelle B croons out the melodies accompanied by Ben Moore and the Blues Express singing such favorites as Tennessee Whiskey and At Last. “Wherever you want to be, music will take you there,” she tells the crowd.
Opened in 1966 by Sam Watts, the lounge was sold to the current owners, Tommy and Theresa Stephens in 1993 by Sam’s wife Myrtle after Sam passed away in 1992. Tommy has been a regular at the lounge since 1968 and purchased it after working 33 years with Detroit public schools.
The club has a chill vibe and creates spellbinding blue’s enchantment on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9 pm till close with a $10 cover on Friday and Saturday, free on Thursday. The clientele ranges from the regulars decked out in stylish clothes to musical artists who might take to the stage after a drink to young hipsters looking for a funky place with authenticity to hang out. The drink of choice at the lounge is the Long Island Tea which pairs well with its soul food cuisine such as catfish with fresh greens.
Ben Moore and the Blues Express play every Thursday night. Moore, the bass player, has been part of the scene for the past 30 years. This evening, Alice Offley a British singer and song writer coming all the way from London England jumps on stage and belts out a melody.
The lounge did not start out as a blue’s club but at a polka dancehall in the late 1800s when polish immigrants came to the neighborhood. It is located in what is now Poletown. With the automobile revolution, and the Great Migration in 1916, African Americans from the south began populating the neighborhood bringing their culture of music and cuisine with them. In the neighborhood next door, Paradise Valley, along the main throughfare of Hastings Street, nightclubs, gambling joints, and bars popped up and a blues and jazz scene blossomed. The vibrant area, whose cultural impact on music rivaled New Orleans and Harlem, attracted such music greats at Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald and created such notable artists as Big Maceo (Major Merriweather) and John Lee Hooker. Many films have used the Raven as a location including the Oscar nominated documentary, “Detropia” and the movie “Low Winter Sun.”
The unofficial motto of the Raven Lounge is come as a customer, leave as family. The 24 year veteran bartender, Kathy Davis, is happy to serve up a drink. The Raven is an awesome place to hear some incredible blues while dancing and swaying through the night.