Speaker: Lars Bjorn

Jim Gallert

Detroit Music History

Lars Bjorn & Jim Gallert of Detroit Music History have been researching, interviewing musicians, and writing about Detroit music for 35 years. They have conducted 100-plus interviews with Detroit musicians, club owners, and others who contributed to Detroit’s glorious scene. They have hundreds of photographs and other images—many never published—that they use in their presentations. Also featured are rare audio tracks, some of which are unreleased or privately recorded, and some video segments. All of the presented material comes from original research.

Bjorn and Gallert are recipients of the “Jazz Guardian” award, given by the Detroit Jazz Festival, and are responsible for the Jazz Talk Tent at the festival each year. Much of their work went into “Before Motown: A History of Jazz In Detroit, 1920-1960,” published by the University of Michigan Press in 2001.

Their presentations, which have been given in Michigan, Chicago, and the United Kingdom, are 60 to 90 minutes in length and are PowerPoint-based. The duo supplies all audio-visual equipment, with the exception of a projection screen.

Available Presentations

Detroit Jazz History, 1920 – 1960
This presentation follows the outline of their book, and covers the key locations and players of each decade. They start with early Detroit dance bands, and finish with the introduction of Motown Records. Early Detroit blues musicians are included as well.

The Roots of Motown
A look at Detroit’s late 1940s music scene, with a special emphasis on “John R – The street of music.” John R was home to many clubs, hotels, and other music sites, including the fabled Flame Show Bar, cited by Berry Gordy as a critical location. Many of the musicians and entertainers who worked in John R clubs were later employed by Motown.

The Jazz Age In Detroit, 1910-1930
For this talk, the presenters delve into early Detroit blues, bands, and ballrooms. They review the rise of contact dancing, and the many new ballrooms to support this radical new form of entertainment. Recordings of Detroit ragtime pioneers, blues musicians, and early dance bands are featured.

Lars Bjorn

Detroit Music In the Atomic Age, 1945-1960
The 1950s were the Golden Age of Detroit Jazz, and this presentation includes several fine examples. In addition to segments on pre-Motown record labels, there are recordings by Jack Scott, the 4 Tops, and the high-energy “Jump” blues bands of Todd Rhodes and T.J. Fowler.




Honorarium + mileage; details available upon request


Jim Gallert
(248) 545-1945


Historical Society of Michigan 7435 Westshire Dr., Lansing MI 48917
Email hsm@hsmichigan.org | Phone (517) 324-1828 | Fax (517) 324-4370

Designed by MATRIX and hosted by H-Net
Martrix logo