Russ Gibb Grande Flash Mob 5.5.19

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.

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Russ Gibb Remembered

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.


Detroit News 

Detroit Free Press

Dearborn Press and Guide

Metro Times

Detroit News – Sue Whitehall

Detroit Free Press 5-1-19

Russ complaining to me about his missing limo – Grande 40th Concert 2006

L2R Tom Wright, Russ GIbb, Tom Lubinski and Leo Early. Old Stoner Productions and Friends of the Grande honor Russ. Grande 40th Concert 2006

Russ and Alberta Muirhead


Russ (in bowtie) with Group W executives and Mayor John O’Reilly striking the deal to bring cable t.v. to Dearborn.


Michigan State FairGrounds

On his BSA behind the homestead at 7729 Kentucky Street

Russ at Fordson High, Dearborn 1947

Russ with “Blackout” #1

Russ and his parents ’round the piano at 7729 Kentucky c. 1937

Russ’ parents Jim and Jessie Gibb

Jessie and Russ Trans-atlantic convoy U.K trip c.1940

Russ w. Christmas phonograph c.1938


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Grande Column Corbels Repatriated

“Repatriation is the process of returning an asset, an item of symbolic value or a person – voluntarily or forcibly – to its owner or their place of origin or citizenship.”

When it opened in 1928 the Grande Ballroom dance floor featured approximately 20 ornate molded plaster column caps or “corbels”.  It is has been speculated  that these and other several other Grande architectural ornaments are the work of the noted sculptor Corrado Parducci.

Grande Architect Charles Agree regularly employed Parducci and it is plausible that his studio was hired for the Grande project.

C. Agree Grande Blueprint

Detroit Free Press 1948

Over time all of these column caps were ripped or cut off their bases by scrappers and souvenir hunters looking for profit or to otherwise collect them.

Column Cap Corbel 1 of 2

Recently since the announcement of the inclusion of the Grande on the National Register of Historic Places, the Friends of the Grande became aware of two of the column cap/corbels.  With help from several parties concerned with the preservation of the ballroom, these artifacts were acquired on behalf of the owners and placed in secure storage. Should the Grande ever be restored, this artwork can be recreated, replicated and reinstalled.

If you would like to see one of these Column Caps/Corbels for yourself, starting January 7 it will be on display at the Detroit Sound Conservancy’s “Salvaging Sound” exhibit at Detroit Historical museum through April.








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Grande Ballroom Aerial Survey 2017

It was a bright sunny morning in Detroit to go flying! Thanks to our generous GoFundMe donors The Friends of the Grande were able to engage our professionals for the first phase of the Grande Ballroom analysis and inspection, the aerial survey.

Grande Aerial 2017

Harry Arnold of Detroit Drone brought out his commercial grade video photography drone for this morning’s overflight. Our structural engineer and representatives from the building’s owner, Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church were also present.

Mr. Arnold brings with him a large 36″ Flat screen monitor that displays real time video from the drone. With this capability customers can direct the pilot to points of interest and concern. The end result was that we captured some spectacular stills and video documenting the condition of the Grande’s roof.

We were very fortunate in that we had a couple days of mild temperatures, enough to melt 90% of the snow off the roof. Snow load is a very important safety concern and it was decided that, as an aerial survey would be necessary anyway, it should be performed in advance of an interior inspection. Stay tuned…

Special thanks to Deacon Hudson from Chapel Hill and Marty Rickard for the ground photos.

Grande Aerial 2017 - 4 Grande Aerial 2017 - 2 Grande Aerial 2017 - 3 Grande Aerial 2017 - 4

Grande Aerial 2017 - 6

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Save the Grande! Friends of the Grande Volunteer meeting. August 2017

Tuesday evening August 8th from 7-9 P.M. we are calling to order the August volunteer meeting for the Friends of the Grande. This is a public meeting that is open to anyone interested in contributing to the cause of preserving and restoring the Grande Ballroom building. As of this spring, the current owners Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church have granted approval to pursue nomination of the building to the National Register of Historic Places and to investigate restoration/redevelopment potential.

Of particular importance for this meeting will be funding for a structural integrity report and the national historic registry nomination.

We will be holding monthly meetings in the Theater of Techshop Detroit. Techshop is a membership-based, open-access, DIY workshop.

We hope to  have all stakeholders present and look forward to seeing YOU there!


Leo Early

Friends of the Grande

FOG on Facebook

Techshop – Detroit/Allen Park

800 Republic Drive, Allen Park, MI 48101.

(313) 583-3831


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Friends of the Grande volunteer meeting June 5

Monday evening June 5 from 7-9 P.M. we are calling to order the first Friends of the Grande meeting in over ten years. This is a public meeting that is open to anyone interested in contributing to the cause of preserving and restoring the Grande Ballroom building. As of this spring, the current owners Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church have granted approval to pursue nomination of the building to the National Register of Historic Places and to investigate restoration/redevelopment potential.

We will be talking about the nomination which will be reviewed in September and discussing potential business cases. On the agenda are a number of pre-development projects that are critical to saving the building. “Sealing the envelope” of the structure is paramount and the help of volunteers coupled with fundraising efforts can aid in achieving that goal.

We will be holding this meeting in the auditorium of Techshop Detroit. Techshop is a membership-based, open-access, DIY workshop and fabrication studio that welcomes people of all skill levels to come in and use industrial tools and equipment to build their own projects.

We hope to  have all stakeholders present and look forward to seeing YOU there!


Leo Early

Friends of the Grande


Techshop – Detroit/Allen Park

800 Republic Drive, Allen Park, MI 48101.

(313) 583-3831


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Leo Early @ B&N Book Fair Saturday March 4

Although it’s technically in Northville, I’ll be appearing at the Livonia Barnes and Noble Local Author Book Fair on Saturday March 4 @ 7 P.M.

I am one of ten local authors invited to participate based upon the success of our titles at the chain. So if you still enjoy browsing through real physical books and meeting those that write them, please come out and join us!

17111 Haggerty Rd.
Northville, MI 48168

Barnes and Noble – Livonia Local Author Book Fair

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Grande Ballroom 50th Anniversary – History Bus Tour w/Photos

This gallery contains 17 photos.

In remembrance of the 50th Anniversary of the Rock n Roll re-opening of the Grande Ballroom, author Leo Early led a group of 35 Grande fans on a music history tour of downriver and the west side of Detroit. On … Continue reading

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The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace

leo early

After 12 years of toil, dozens of interviews, countless library hours and plenty of travel,  I am pleased to finally announce the release of my book, “The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace.” Much thanks to all the Grande faithful who helped me get to this point. To all the principals, patrons and performers, I hope this offering is a reflective glimpse into the entire 88 year history of the building that you will all enjoy.

Leo Early 2016

“In the 1920’s, a jewel of Detroit entertainment arose on the west side – the Grande Ballroom. The venue flourished under the ownership of infamous gambler Harry Weitzman and management of dance scion Paul Strasburg. The advent of rock n’ roll pushed the ballroom into hard times, but in 1966, a local schoolteacher and disc jockey Russ Gibb resurrected it with the promise of live rock music.The new psychedelic ballroom style attracted scores of suburban baby boomers and helped launch the careers of local legends like the MC5, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent. Soon the ballroom’s prestige attracted international acts like the Cream, the Who and the Jeff Beck group. Detroit Music expert Leo Early celebrates this beloved venue.”



Cover photo by Tom Weschler

Press Release

The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace Facebook group – Discuss the book!

The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace – Fan/Book page

The Friends of the Grande Facebook page – Grass roots activism – Author Page

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Russ Gibb Memorial May 17 – Gibb Scholarship fund.


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.

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Jim Dunbar – Gibb friend and California radio great passes

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.

1947 Fordson Sophomore class. Russ is highlighted, to his right is younger brother Bill Dunbar.

SF Chronicle Article 


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Russ Gibb Passes at age 87

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.

Russ Gibb Remembered


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Grande Spanish Tile Magic


Beverly Court Spanish Tile outer roof.

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.




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Grande Ballroom 2.0 Pronounced Viable


CHMBC Deacon Hudson, Contractor Ellis and F.O.G. Team Lead Early

In October of 2018 the Friends of the Grande performed a structural inspection of all three floors of the Grande Ballroom building. Undertaken with the cooperation of the current owners Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church, professional services were paid for with funds raised via a GoFundMe campaign.

A structural engineer and a disaster recovery/roofing contractor were part of the team that toured and analyzed the building. Photos and HD video from this visit and from earlier Aerial Drone overflights were used to compile a structural integrity report. This report is an integral part of the due diligence necessary for stabilization and restoration decision making.

Discovered was a building in surprisingly good shape considering the amount of deferred maintenance over the past 25 + years. A significant number of roof panels have failed exposing the lower ceilings to the sky and elements. Water has invaded the Grande causing damage to plaster and other soft elements such as wood. That said, the Ballroom was built during a time of prosperity when many similar structures were also extremely “overbuilt.” Huge reinforced concrete trusses and columns used throughout the structure are in very good condition. Vast steel trusses, some 80 feet in length support the roof over the dance floor and exhibit only minor surface rust.  This concrete and steel skeleton is the Ballroom’s saving grace. A lesser wooden structure would have completely rotted away under similar conditions.  The basement is relatively dry and the foundation solid. All windows were completely boarded over in September of 2017.

“.. the structure is in much better condition than expected …. While it needs repairs, the repairs are relatively minor and the structure is in no danger of collapse during repairs as long as no large construction loads are added to it.”  Grande Structural Report.

In summary this phase of due diligence is closed. Based upon these discoveries, the Grande Ballroom is considered viable for stabilization, restoration and adaptive re-use. This status coupled with its recent inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places clears the way for additional business case planning, grant writing and fundraising.

Leo Early

Friends of the Grande

January 2019

2018 Grande Inspection Team




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Grande Ballroom Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

On December 10,2018, The Grande Ballroom was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Originally proposed in 2008, the nomination gained steam with the approval of the current owners, Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church in 2016.  With this status the building qualifies for tax credits and helps pave the way for additional redevelopment grants and funding.

Grande Aerial 2017

Grande Aerial 2017



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The Grande Ballroom Mural

The week of October 21, 2018 saw new activity at the Grande Ballroom. Onlookers would have seen the application of a new coat of paint to the building….

Grande Mural

Grande Mural (Photo: Justin McCormack)

This was the beginning of the new community art project underwritten by Wayne and Margaret Saadi Kramer’s Jail Guitar Doors charity. For those unaware, Jail Guitar Doors (JGD) is the Kramers’ non-profit organization providing musical instruments and mentorship to help rehabilitate prisoners through the transformative power of music. JGD is presently active in over 130 correctional facilities in the U.S.

The objective of the mural is to depict Wayne’s story, the positive mission of Jail Guitar Doors and to highlight the historical significance of the Grande Ballroom itself.

The narrative of the mural speaks of the definitive Grande Ballroom resident act, the MC5. A large Stratocaster-wielding Wayne Kramer shoots stars around the corner from the Grand River elevation to the Beverly Court facade. These stars then transform into images representing Kramer, the MC5 and Grande Ballroom history. Paralleling these components are additional elements representing Mr. Kramer’s influences. recovery and the jail guitar ethos of “Rock n’ Roll Redemption”.  Overarching the mural will be a Kramer mantra; ‘Maximum Effort – Limitless Possibilities”

Justin McCormack of Modern Pirate Brands is managing this project for the Kramers. Justin has flown in from Los Angeles with talented muralists Gabriel Gault and Diego Mendoza-Ramos, Gabe and Diego have been painting the project in partnership with local sign artist Zak Warmann.

Muralist Zak Warmann (photo: William Moran)

The Friends of the Grande’s Leo Early coordinated Jail Guitar Doors’ proposal with the current owners of the Ballroom, Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church.  The Friends of the Grande are working with the church to assess and position the Grande for potential redevelopment.  The property is awaiting final approval from the National Parks Service for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, The mural “facelift” will be a tremendous improvement in the look of the area and its positive message shall also serve to focus attention on the challenges of the building and the neighborhood.

All of this attention comes at a significant moment in time. Over Halloween weekend in 1968 the MC5 recorded their debut album live at the Grande Ballroom. On that LP’s 50th year anniversary, Wayne Kramer is again performing the MC5 canon in Detroit as part of the MC50th tour. The Kramers’ mural gift is expected to be completed by the turn of the month.

Much thanks to Wayne and Margaret Saadi Kramer, Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church – Rev. R. Lamont Smith Pastor, Deborah East, Deacon Clarence Hudson, Justin McCormack,  Gabriel Gault, Diego Mendoza-Ramos, and Zak Warmann.





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