THE PARADISE CLUB
Arthur Braggs who resided in Saginaw began vacationing in Idlewild and envisioned the business opportunity that this African-American resort community offered. In partnership with Ed Bracey of Lansing, they leased and renovated the Paradise Club preparing it to become a major music venue. Arthur Braggs was instrumental in developing the music culture and enhancing the attendant economy of Idlewild.
Dr. Ronald Stephens, Director of African American Studies, Purdue University, succinctly captures the essence of Braggs’ foundational role in transforming the Paradise Club into a premier music venue in his book entitled Idlewild: The Rise, Decline, and Rebirth of a Unique African American Resort Town. “Braggs, entrepreneur, playboy, business owner, policy boss, showman, introduced top-notch shows, a producer’s success he realized after renovating the Paradise Club in 1952 and expanding it to accommodate more patrons in the dinning room near the stage of the Fiesta Room. The club always attracted a capacity crowd, although the expansion was really about the setup where the bands, dancers, comedians, and stars performed. Braggs’ creative genius as a producer and manager of a staff of sixteen was likewise first-rate.”
The club featured a continuous stream of major African American performers, many of whom would be inducted into the R & B and Rock & Roll Hall of Fames and others. Just a partial list of these notables includes the Four Tops, Dela Reese, Bill Doggett, Ike and Tina Turner, Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, Brook Benton, Nat King Cole, B.B. King, James Brown, and Lavern Baker.
Working with ABC affiliate WKLA Radio in Ludington, many of these musical programs were aired nationally on Saturday nights from the Paradise Club hosted by popular WKLA disk jockey Tommy Roy. After Labor Day when many of the summer residents returned home, Roy who handled promotions and bookings, took performers on a performance tour to cities in the northeast and Canada.