Remembering the Grande
Chris Morton, writing in his Floydian Slips blog, takes us back to the summer of 1967. Tim Buckley was slated to appear at Russ Gibb’s famed Grande Ballroom and as the artist and his host headed toward the venue their path was blocked by the Michigan National Guard. They were told that portions of the city were in flames. Chris goes on to relate how the Grande escaped destruction even as buildings all around it were consumed. Even as the rage was boiling over, people remembered that this was a place where the music lived.. a place worth saving.
That’s just one of a thousand footnotes from the storied history of Detroit’s hippest 60s concert spot. In the day, everybody who was going to be anybody played the Grande and their appearances were chronicled on the psychedelic poster artistry of Carl Lundgren and Gary Grimshaw. Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Muddy Waters, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, the James Cotton Blues Band, The Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and the Chambers Brothers all graced the Grande stage. It was the launching pad for Michigan bands with global aspirations with house acts like The Stooges and the MC5 keeping the place packed. Political strategy was crafted there. Romances blossomed and flamed out. Mind altering substances were bought, sold and consumed. And as is the case with other pivotal events of the decade, the Grande legend grows even as it’s brief prime recedes into history.
Russ Gibb and friends reminisce about the Grande Ballroom