FLINT, Michigan—The Golden Leaf dates back 97 years. Its walls are storied, filled with the beating rhythm of generations.
It's a place where the best have played, set lists are optional and jam sessions are commonplace. The Leaf is said to be one of the oldest black-owned bars in Michigan, definitely in Flint. It was founded as a private club where black audiences could see jazz artists and other performers give after-hours performances after artists' shows to other locations filled with whites-only crowds.
The Leaf gave prominence to local legends such as Dottie Patton, Sherm Mitchell, Willie George, Georgia Herlich, Benny Poole and Sherwood Pea. And, it has played host to music royalty including Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and even bebop high priest, Dizzy Gillespie.
Located in a humble house with the feel of a speakeasy, The Leaf is located on Harrison Street, on a small, mostly forgotten, one-block section of the road cut off from downtown when I-69 was built.
Founded as the Maple Leaf in 1921 and by 1923 had taken on the golden name. Founded by Magnus Clark, he passed the Golden Leaf to Lois Perrin, who turned it over to Ola Smith, who gave the reins to Warren Hill, who 25 years ago entrusted the legendary establishment to Lottie Reid—the current hostess, maitre d' and greeter to all.
Just like in its founding days, The Leaf is—as Antwain Kirkland, who plays keys for the house band Eclipse, perfectly describes—“a musical experience.” The night ebbs and flows with the crowd and music picking up around 11 p.m. “You never know what you’re going to get when you come down because we don’t even know where we’re going to take the music.”
Hear for yourself in the video above.
Read more in Flintside: Welcome to Golden Leaf, the iconic Flint jazz club everyone should know about