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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin



The day before Thanksgiving I was scheduled to return to Harper Hospital in Detroit for a full left hip replacement. The operation was my best choice if I wanted to continue to lead an active life. My hip was shot.

Wednesday they replaced it. Thursday morning I was walking and climbing stairs with very little pain. This seemed to me to be a Thanksgiving miracle, an end of shuffling through pain.

All Thanksgiving day I hung out on a hospital bed at Harper Hospital where I got a chance to thank a lot of people.  It wasn’t for the many turkey dishes that they served. There were a lot of heroes to thank for having saved my life and then doubling down by giving me a new titanium hip along with all the support needed to get me out of there before the next dry turkey sandwich arrived.

Many kind staff members would greet me with, “Oh, you’re the one!” It turns out that I was the reason for a rare code blue  that they had either witnessed or heard about. In September I was that patient who had gone into cardiac arrest after having a severe allergic reaction to some medications. I received five minutes of CPR before miraculously returning to life. This was a troubling event at the time to everyone but me as I had drifted away for the scariest moments.

I made my decision on the evening after the dramatic event to return to the hospital where I had almost died.

I have been questioned about this decision ever since. I made the decision because of the quality of the alert medical staff who intervened with fate on my behalf.

Deciding to return to Harper  Hospital allowed me to thank and confirm those around me who had acted so quickly and creatively to both save my life and to give comfort to my family.


My recent hospital experience wasn’t my first chance to show my appreciation to those who stand up when times are tough. We are fortunate to have strong partners whom we depend on to come through and who deserve a shout out now and then.

For years Detroit had more people deciding to leave than they had  those coming in. Our out bound drains were full. Then in 2008 Detroit and many of us were on CPR having suffered developmental and financial arrest.

In 2008  the world was in the grip of a serious recession. There were foreclosures and bankruptcies including Detroit’s auto industry. We all felt the downward pull. Detroit is a city that prides itself on being resilient. We are the comeback city. We get knocked down, and we get back up. True enough, but not that simple. We need some help sometimes. We look for a champion for Detroit to appear. Sometimes we get lucky and one of our own steps up. They tell us we count and that we are special. They get strong when the weak walk away.



I went to a place that I have found to be always therapeutic. I went to a local jazz club.  It was a new, somewhat upscale place, called the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. I sat at the bar and at some point started talking  to Carl, the club’s bartender and therapist. He introduced me to a true champion for jazz and Detroit.



In 2005  Gretchen said  “PHOOEY” to the people that thought Detroit was dying. She saw the vibrant talent in the Detroit jazz community and she knew that the people of Detroit have their hopes permanently entangled in the city’s music. The music is of the city and it remains deep in the city’s DNA. The people still moved to the music, and the music hadn’t stopped. The machines may have slowed down, shop doors may have closed, politicians may have gone to jail. Our leaders were throwing up their hands and walking away. The music was still really good. Gretchen knew that something had to be done, and she did something. Detroit’s symbol of excellence was in trouble, and as soon as Gretchen found out she set out to do what was necessary to keep it going. She was all over this task. How lucky we are that it was someone of Gretchen’s integrity who took charge.  She was determined to keep the DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL Detroit’s event. Today it remains free for all to enjoy and reflects the best side of Detroit’s character.

Gretchen Valade’s love of the music carried the day. With help she founded Mack Avenue Records, saved the Detroit Jazz Festival from extinction, and made sure that the Dirty Dog Jazz Café opened its doors and thrived.


The Dirty Dog Jazz Café is a confluence of music, food, service, acoustics, lighting, place  and respect. It is the culmination of hard work, good planning and follow through. But from the very beginning it is mostly the result of a fierce commitment from one person, Gretchen Valade. Some people dream about what could be while others complain about what isn’t. Gretchen had an idea that it would be nice to have a place for Detroit jazz to be heard, and it wasn’t going to be just any old second rate dive. She took charge, and there is little doubt that the future of our jazz music was in good hands. Gretchen has been a force.


Documenting The Legacy Of Gretchen Valade

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Cover photo of Will Austin at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café

If you ever want to be reminded of this great story of jazz and Detroit in photographs, you might consider picking up the book, DETROIT JAZZ  Documenting the legacy of Gretchen Valade. The book is a collection of my photographs of Detroit’s great jazz artists shot at venues that had been made possible by the generous acts of Gretchen Valade. It is my  attempt to document the results of one woman’s dream,  I wanted the world to know that Detroit’s jazz community has never faltered. The photos are witness.

This book is my attempt to document this time of renewal. I feel that the book respects and honors all of the artists, Detroit and Gretchen.

When you come by the Dirty Dog ask to see the book. They will be pleased to show it to you and give you a chance to get a first edition copy. This book makes a great gift to anyone who likes jazz, Detroit or photography.

John Osler


You can order the book online at You can also get the book at bookstores and on Amazon. For a signed copy please contact us at or call John at 313.886.4728, and we will get books out to you.

The book can also be purchased at the DIA, Source Book Store and Bookbeat Book Store.

Here are some pages from the book.

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November 29 – December 2

Rayse Biggs will bring his good medicine to the Dirty Dog Jazz Café for four nights of authentic Detroit jazz. Rayse has always attracted talented musicians to play alongside him. Come and hear why they so eagerly sign up.

#Detroit #DetroitJazzbook #DetroitJazzFestival #AlvinWaddles #RodneyWhitaker #CliffMonear #SeanDobbins #Jazz #Music #DetroitJazz #DwightAdams #JudyAdams #RayseBiggs #thanksgiving #JAZZMUSIC #RalpheArmstrong #AlexanderZonjic #musicDirtyDogJazzCafe

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