Live6 celebrates famed music club

Live 6 Detroit and Detroit Sound Conservancy celebrated the rich musical heritage of an old University of Detroit hangout last week with an event that spanned three nights.

The festivities, hosted at Detroit Sip coffeehouse along McNichols Road, honored Chessmate Café, which was located in the building now housed by University Coin Laundry on Livernois Avenue.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Chessmate offered acoustic-folk and blues music and, later, disco.

The club began as a place where chess players met to compete.

Many future stars – among them Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and Linda Rondstadt – performed there early in their careers.

Each of the three musical genres was given its own night last week, and people who remembered the club in its heyday came out to show their support and love and to share memories.

The gala began on Thursday night with folk music. It started off a little slow, said Detroit Sip owner Jevona Watson.

But by Friday night it picked up.

“Blues night was awesome,” she said. “To see so many people come out and talk about how they remember the Chessmate and sing along to the music was nice, and I was glad Live6 asked me to host the events here.”

Saturday night was disco night and around 30 people attended.

Lauren Hood and Carleton Gholz, co-directors of Live6, coordinated the event and asked attendees to share their memories of Chessmate.

Hood recorded the event live on the organization’s Facebook page. 

She said she appreciated everyone who came out.

“We chose the Chessmate because we were trying to find some musical stories or background in the neighborhood. And being that this is Detroit, it wasn’t very hard,” Hood said.