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 Friday October 7th the tour began at the rallying point, the Lincoln Park Historical Museum where attendees were first able to view the marvelous exhibits featuring the MC5 and famed Artist Gary Grimshaw’s studio.
At 4 P.M. sharp the Blue Lakes super excursion charter bus rolled out for stops in the city of Lincoln Park cruising through the neighborhoods the MC5 called home. The crew stopped to view Kennedy Memorial Park and bandshell, a facility very familiar to the MC5 and the site of the MC50th concert celebration in 2015. (see photos)
The Bus also made stops at Lincoln Park High School and the primary childhood home of Gary Grimshaw.
The next segment took the group through Dearborn with pauses at the former WKNR building, Russ Gibb’s alma mater Fordson High School and legendary post-war night club and proto-Grande, the Gay Haven!
It was then on to the “fifty states” neighborhood and the original Gibb family homestead (which interestingly was for sale) for beverages. a photo opportunity and a video tour of the interior of the home.
After departing Dearborn our charter transported us up Livernois, “The Avenue of Fashion” to the University District between Fenkell and Seven Mile Road. There we took note of several properties significant to the 60’s music scene, students of the University of Detroit and to the Grande Ballroom.
Tera Shirma Studios, The Campus Ballroom, and The Chessmate were all visited.
On board we had the pleasure of hearing additional narration by Steve “Muruga” Booker. Muruga is a very accomplished veteran Detroit drummer, percussionist and artist. A true Detroit original, Muruga even played Woodstock with Tim Hardin. He has recorded with Weather Report and is a validated P-Funk All-Star. Muruga related stories of the Chessmate and performing with blues master John Lee Hooker. The pair was once billed as “Hooker and Booker”.
Next the “eye candy” leg of the tour where the spectacular 1920’s tudor homes of the University District were included. Of particular interest was 18603 Wildemere a rare design by Grande Architect Charles Agree. This was once the home of famed composer and pianist Seymour Simons.
Next we headed back south to Grand River and Beverly for our stop curbside at the Grande Ballroom, 50 years on from the rock n’ roll re-opening weekend!
As we arrived at the Grande fully 30 minutes behind schedule, daylight was fast disappearing. After everyone had disembarked we gathered for a great group photo in front of the building thanks to the artful photographer Dori Sumter.
It was then that I introduced everyone to a special guest, Laura. Laura had contacted me last year well before this bus tour was planned with a special request. Her dear friend Danny Smith (whom I had never met) had been a devoted Grande regular in the ’60’s and had passed away in 2015. One of his final wishes was to be cremated and to have his ashes spread at or in the Grande Ballroom he so loved. We had prearranged for Muruga Booker (who is today a Yogi and Orthodox Priest) to officiate and honor Danny’s last wishes.
As the group assembled in a circle, Muruga ignited an incense spreader as Laura held aloft a passport photo of Danny Smith. Muruga and the group said a few words in prayer as the golden sun set in the west. Those that wished to participate spread handfuls of ash along the perimeter of the building. This all seemed a very fitting end for a three hour tour that had now entered its fourth and final hour. I hope Danny was pleased.
Much thanks to Laura, Muruga, Jeff Day, Dave Miller, The Grimshaws, Dori Sumter, Pat Nuznov and all that participated. Long live the Grande!
Grande Bus Tour