A Brief History of the Grande Ballroom

The Grande Ballroom (pronounced Gran-dee) was completed in 1928, designed by noted Detroit architect Charles N. Agree.  The Grande opened in the fall of that year and would quickly become a jewel of the West side.  Set astride one of the busiest intersections in a very dense Jewish neighborhood, the Grande was wildly popular from the beginning.  When dances such as the Foxtrot were all the rage, the Grande regularly played host to thousands of dancers every week.  It would remain extremely successful even through the lean years of the depression and the Second World War.  Ultimately changing tastes, migrating populations and freeways would bring an end to the ballroom dance business.  By 1960, the last dancers had collected their coats from the coatroom and the Grande’s dance floor would be largely silent for nearly 10 years.  In 1963, club owner and attorney Gabe Glantz purchased the property with an eye towards returning entertainment to the neighborhood.  In 1966 Glantz would connect with a like-minded teacher and disc jockey from Dearborn named Russ Gibb.

Russ had himself made a little money hosting sock hops and teen dances and saw potential in a new model; the Psychedelic ballrooms of New York and San Francisco.  An arrangement was forged between Gibb, the impresario and promotion man, and Glantz, the attorney and building owner.  In October 1966, the Grande Ballroom rock era began with the legendary MC5 opening its first weekend.  MC5 singer Rob Tyner would refer Russ Gibb to his pal from Lincoln Park, Gary Grimshaw for the opening night poster design.  Grimshaw would go on to design many more posters and handbills for the Grande Ballroom.  Increasingly as Grimshaw began to spend more time out of town, he brought in Carl Lundgren to help design pieces for the shows that were packing the Grande every week.  Grimshaw and Lundgren would design the bulk of the Grande catalog producing works that served to promote some of most popular local, national and international acts of the period.  With works promoting everyone from the MC5 and the Stooges, to the Grateful Dead, Cream, and The Who, the Grimshaw – Lundgren Grande catalog remains one of the most definitive of the period.  As Russ Gibb’s productions moved on to ever larger venues, the Grande prime passed under various promoters before it ground to halt in 1972.  The building has changed hands amongst a number of churches in the decades since its final shows and today languishes in neglect and decay on the corner of Grand River and Beverly.

 

Leo Early