Melissa Walsh

Celebrating Ten Jazzy Years on The Hill

Grosse Pointe Magazine | March 2018 | Dirty Dog Ten Years

Dirty dog ten years

Celebrating Ten Jazzy Years on The Hill By Melissa Walsh

Over the past decade, The Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe on The Hill has been a high-style locale in Detroit jazz culture. Since its opening on February 13, 2008, its stage has brought prodigious talent to metro Detroit jazz patrons and in front of the venue’s owner, Farms resident and business luminary Gretchen Valade.

A player in the jazz music industry since founding Mack Avenue Records in 1998, Valade set her vision of building a jazz stage on The Hill in motion by bringing in Andre Neimanis as Executive Chef and Willie Jones as General Manager as early as August 2007.

Tom Robinson, Mack Avenue Records CEO who is also a seasoned carpenter, managed the “hammer and nails” activity of converting the site from a former flower shop to chic club, says Jones. The decor presents Valade’s fondness both for jazz and for dogs with images of jazz greats and dignified canine paintings adorning the club’s walls. The Dirty Dog “hall of fame” showcases the artist that have performed there.

Serving up cocktails since the club’s launch, Carl Williams attracts has attracted regulars to the bar. Described as “extremely popular with the customers,” Robinson says Carl is “a staff member who gets double the applause.”

Valade, 93, attends most of the Dirty Dog’s performances, staying for the first set.

“She’s so personable, so intelligent, so sharp, so caring,” says Jones. “She’s just down-to-earth.”

Also a sharp business woman, Valade sets a high bar for the calibre of artists invited onto the Dirty Dog stage. Those that impress her might be secured a spot on the stage of the Detroit Jazz Festival, for which Valade has been the primary sponsor since 2005. Valade might also refer stand-out talent to Mack Avenue Records Product Manager, Darrell Garrett, for a recording deal on her imprint, Detroit Music Factory.

“When I first started watching the bands at the Dirty Dog I became a little nostalgic for the stage myself,” says Valade, 93, who performed long ago and is on the credits of several Mack Avenue Records tracks as songwriter.  “Eventually, I appreciated the talent we offered there and realized I could never have gotten that good.”

“I asked her (Valade) once, if she had to choose a career what would she have done,” says Robinson. “She said she’d be an entertainer.”