Recent Blog Posts
- Elizabeth Sulflow-Willoughby – Grande Ballroom Diorama
- Strategic Stabilization at the Grande
- Grande Ballroom Emergency Roof Fund Crowdfunding
- Moonshot Grande
- Russ Gibb Memorial May 17 – Gibb Scholarship fund.
- Russ Gibb Grande Flash Mob 5.5.19
- Jim Dunbar – Gibb friend and California radio great passes
- Russ Gibb Remembered
- Russ Gibb Passes at age 87
- Grande Spanish Tile Magic
Grande Blog Archive
Recently I had reached out to the brilliant artist Elizabeth Sulflow-Willoughby regarding her fantastic scale building dioramas. Elizabeth had posted on social media stunningly accurate 3-d depictions of Detroit music haunts and hot spots. She has created marvelous views of the Old Miami, El Club, St. Andrews Hall and even the Temple bar.
Since prior to our current nationwide lockdown, the Friends of the Grande were planning the next phase of fundraising for the building, I suggested to Elizabeth that a commision of a Grande Ballroom piece would be a worthy auction item. After providing her with copies of the original blueprints and some exterior photos, we saw the spectacular result in just a couple of weeks!
Elizabeth focused on the Beverly Court elevation and original entrance. Paying tribute to the Rock Era on the north end it morphs towards the recent Gabe Gault corner mural (commissioned in 2018). This creation was her largest piece yet. Thank you Elizabeth, you really DID Kick out the Jams !!!
This month, thanks to the generous donors of our fall GoFundMe campaign, the Friends of The Grande and Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church were finally able to engage contractors for roof stabilization.
Job#1 has always been to maintain access to the areas were ingress to the ballroom floor and roof had been compromised by debris. This was mandatory for easy and safe movement of labor and materials to those levels of the building. Fortunately, we have had limited snowfall this winter and our contractor, CGA, completed 90% of the required work just before the second significant snowfall of the season. As evidenced in these photos, CGA then completed their spectacular job of removing or displacing a significant amount of detritus. Blue tarps are now covering the concrete or steel stair treads to help protect them from additional debris, snow and ice.
- Stabilize the brick roof access cupola – The “little shack” that protects the roof stairs is compromised and needs repair. The critical steel stairs are now free of debris and are in relatively good shape.
- Roof platform – It will next be necessary to lay down materials on the surface of the roof to allow safe transit from the access cupola to the repair areas of greatest concern. This step will likely require a hydraulic lift apparatus. A safe platform on the roof will allow for ready inspection by engineers and roofing contractors. Given a budget, patchwork repairs of the roof could proceed (Weather permitting) as the first steps towards sealing and drying the building.
Much thanks to Rev. Smith, Deacon Johnson and Deborah East at CHMBC for this collaborative help in moving the Grande forward.
Leo Early – Friends of the Grande – January 2020
For Immediate release:
Detroit’s Friends of the Grande are partnering with the Grande Ballroom’s current owners, Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church in a $20,000 Crowdfunding campaign.
Necessitated by the recent partial collapse of wooden roof peak infrastructure, the combined group is hoping to raise these funds to strategically restore this critical portion of the building. A 45-day goal has been set.
Friends of the Grande
The following story was removed from The Grande Ballroom Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace during the editing phase when we needed to reduce word count. I am sharing it here today on the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing. Enjoy.
In July of 1969 Rick Lockhart was a teenager actually living at the Grande Ballroom. Originally a resident of Kentucky Street in Dearborn, he had originally been hired by his neighbor Russ Gibb to perform clean up chores in the building and surrounding neighborhood.
Sadly soon fired by Gibb, the teen was immediately re-hired by Grande owner Gabe Glantz. It would be Glantz that would help Lockhart to become emancipated from his parents and gainfully employed as his 15-year-old Grande “Man Friday”. Residing in office and loft spaces in the venues, Lockhart would be associated with the Glantz family for 10 years including stints at the Grande Rivera and the Michigan Palace.
At the Grande on Sunday July 20 most records indicate that the headlining act was Spooky Tooth with opening act the Stuart Avery Assemblage. However, Rick Lockhart and other patrons vividly remember the Stooges were added to the bill the evening of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
On this gorgeous low-humidity Detroit summer night, Rick (a.k.a. “Sonny Boy”) recalls an incoming phone call at the Grande office. “We just landed on the moon Sonny Boy, who is playing?” Gabe Glantz bellowed; “well it’s Iggy, you can hear ‘em” Lockhart replied; “Go tell Iggy we just landed on the moon!” commanded Glantz; “So I had to go run up to the stage and Iggy is standing there with no shirt on…got the hamburger out, he’s getting’ ready to smear himself with hamburger. He’s got his socks off that … he’s stuffed down in his pants…he used to love to take his socks off. So, I tug on his pant leg and he looks down. and he gets close and I whisper, “Mr. Glantz just told me to tell you that they landed on the moon”. Iggy got all excited and told everybody, “I’m gonna play a special dedication”. The Stooges then launched directly into “1969”. “It was pretty emotional for me”; Lockhart recalled. The Eagle had landed Sunday July 20,1969.
The public memorial for Russ has been set for May 17 from 4-7pm at the Dearborn Community and Performing Arts Center on Michigan Avenue and Greenfield. It will be held in Studio A. Peanut M&Ms and Diet Coke will be available… and don’t forget to get a haircut. We will remember the legend who was among us. Please no flowers – contributions to the Russ Gibb Memorial Scholarship will be accepted instead via checks to the “Dearborn Cable Communications Fund” alternately, A GoFundMe account has been started for the cause. Also to benefit the fund, limited run of Dennis Loren’s commemorative poster will be made available for sale.
Who: Friends, Students. Colleagues and Compatriots of Russell J. Gibb – “Uncle Russ”
What: A “Flash Mob” gathering as an unofficial, impromptu remembrance of Russ Gibb featuring an eco-friendly “bubble release”.
When: 2:00 P.M to 4:00 P.M. Sunday May 5, 2019. Bubble Release “Zero Hour” = 02:30 P.M.
Where: The Grande Ballroom 8952 Grand River, Detroit
-Bring the kids to this family friendly meet up.
-BYOB “Bring your own bubbles” and get ready to blow!
-Wear bright colors and or Grande finery.
-Have fun! as this will be a celebration of Russ’ life.
-Respect the neighbors and the building. Much has been done recently to put the Grande on the path to restoration, so no souvenir hunting please. Take only photos, leave only footprints. The adjacent urban garden on Beverly is public but property of the former Grande owners, the Adventist Church. Enjoy it respectfully.
-Be careful of crossing Grand River on foot. There is no crosswalk at Beverly Court.
-Take photos and share with the hashtag; #grandegibb
-Spread the word!
-Park at fire hydrants and the bus stops.(unless you need a ticket)
-Consume alcohol. As this is family friendly, we would like to keep it low key and not attract the ire of authorities.
-Block driveways, sidewalks or other thoroughfares.
See you there!
The Gibb Estate is finalizing plans for formal official services. This event is being held as an unofficial gathering for fellowship and in remembrance of our dear friend.
We’ve learned today that Jim Dunbar, California radio great and lifelong friend of Russ Gibb passed away, age 89 on April 22.
Jim and his younger brother Bill grew up on Hartwell street in Dearborn, their father an executive at Detroit Seamless Steel Tube, later Sharon Steel. The brothers attended Lowrey Junior High and Fordson high where they would meet Russ Gibb. Jim studied piano and played Alto Sax and Clarinet in his high school combo, “Ronnie Richards and his Rhythm Ramblers”, a group bankrolled by Richards’ stage dad. The trio of Jim, Bill and Russ got into plenty of mischief, even venturing into areas of the city like paradise valley. Jim and Bill sophisticated Jazz fans and Russ the planner and toastmaster. Jim and Russ both developed an early fascination for radio.
Dunbar, who was two years older than Russ, broke into radio first while still in college at Michigan State University. Jim would soon get a gig in Flint and then at WXYZ in Detroit. Later he would get married and move west.
Gibb recalled driving to the coast for Jim’s summer wedding by car, paying cash for a new Ford Thunderbird (a memory partly discounted by the fact that Dunbar had been married since December 22, 1958 and arriving in San Francisco in 1963). Young Steve Kott from the Civil Air Patrol recalled their visit was by air in the spring of ’66. Dunbar was already acquainted with rock concert promoter Bill Graham through his KGO television talk show. “Bill and I had a mutual respect for one another and I thought it would be of interest to Russ to go to the Fillmore. I wanted to introduce him to Bill Graham.”
Jim arranged for members of the Dunbar family, Russ and Steve Kott to make the trek down to the Fillmore Auditorium for a show. Jim, always the jazz fan did not care much for the music: “I thought it was ridiculously primitive.”
This important connection facilitated by Jim Dunbar would famously spark Russ’ idea to bring a Fillmore style venue to Detroit, the Grande Ballroom.
Russell James Gibb June 15,1931 – April 30,2019
Tuesday 09:00 P.M.
I am sitting here writing this obituary of sorts in the middle of a spring evening thunderstorm. “It was a dark and rainy night”, I think Russ would laugh at that cliche. He was a very well read individual and would be bored at any attempt to document his life in great detail. I once asked Russ when he was going to write his memoirs. He said; “that’s for someone else to do!” Ever the visionary, ever the seer.
Tonight I received a phone call from Steve Kott, Russ’ friend for practically 60 years informing me of his passing.
I personally don’t find it necessary to reiterate all the minutiae of Russ’ life story because it solidly a matter of record now. His contribution to the arts is well documented because it WAS very significant. When the Friends of the Grande listed the ballroom on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, Russ was THE primary motivator and empresario that MADE the Grande significant. It might not have made that list were it not for Russ’ dreams realized and the scene that sprouted from them.
Russ was an extremely sharp guy, well educated yet hungry. A tightfisted, hard working Scotsman he was always looking to make an extra buck … a serial entrepreneur. Always keeping his head on a swivel, he saw opportunities well before most people were wiping the sleep out of their eyes. He capitalized on those leading edge baby boomers’ dollars and scaled his sock hops up until he was holding outdoor festivals for tens of thousands of freaks and fans. He had gotten the jump on virtually every mid-sized psychedelic ballroom in the country after reconnaissance trips to California and the Grande became THE midwest stop for touring acts from around the globe.
Detroiters benefited greatly from the scene that Russ and his partner Gabe Glantz created at Grand River and Beverly. The stories live on today with the Grandkids of his “opinion makers” and music heads that packed the ballroom every weekend.
In interviewing Russ I discovered that we were both Napoleon Hill fans. Napoleon wrote “Think and Grow Rich” (1937) which is in the top ten of all time for self help books. Russ had discovered Hill while at Fordson High School. He explained that for a very long time he carried a slip of paper in his wallet with Hill’s famous quote “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” That became a primary motto for him in his quest to succeed. Russ also shared with me stories (that never made my book) of successful businessmen that had offered him help and capital to achieve his business goals. Russ had always paid that kindness forward. He and his partner Michael Berry had scored big with early cable television rights. They pooled their money and created a trust for Dearborn media arts education. That program today is model for the nation. Whether it was through funding education, sponsoring an exchange student or advising a young startup, Russ always remembered, and gave back. So in short, Russ believed wholeheartedly in visualization, self actualization and in spreading the wealth.
Also, Russ always said that the Scots never spoke ill of the dead, so I won’t Sir … I promise.
Russ Gibb June 15,1931 – April 30,2019
It is with great sadness that I announce that the Grande Ballroom’s Russ Gibb has passed away at the age of 87. Russ had been in declining health for some years and most recently was receiving care in a local nursing home.
More details here as they become available.
Recently during inspections of the Grande Ballroom, our team discovered some of remnants of the Grande’s famous Spanish or “barrel” tile roof.
Upon close examination of the tiles we noted the original manufacturer and count for the production run. #213 of 56,370.
It turns out that the manufacturer Ludowici Co. is still in business in New Lexington, Ohio and has been since 1888.
Architect Charles Agree would have worked with this supplier to choose the specific glaze colors for these ceramic, kiln fired, “barrel” tiles. They are commonly very expensive and had the durability to last 100 years or more. We are not certain if all 56,370 tiles from the run were used at the Grande, but given the custom colors it is certainly possible.