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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The Grande Ballroom heads to D.C. and the National Register of Historic Places

The nomination of the Grande Ballroom to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) has been sent off to the National Parks Service in Washington, D.C. for final review and certification.

  • Thursday September 13th the City of Detroit Historic District Advisory Board (HDAB) approved and recommended the Grande to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
  • Friday September 14th Leo Early, representing the Friends of The Grande presented the nomination at the SHPO review board meeting. Public comment was received and a record number of letters and emails were summarized.

  • The SHPO board approved the Grande Ballroom at the local level of significance and has recommended the property to the NRHP for listing.

The final step is for the National Park Service to review the recommended nomination documents. Although the NPS reserves the right to request revision, it is unusual that they do. Certification and listing typically is accomplished within 45 days.

Friends of the Grande review memorabilia after the SHPO vote.

Rock palace Grande Ballroom on track for national historic registry

The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources. Properties listed in the Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.




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The Grande Ballroom – National Register of Historic Places – Final Phase

We received letters this week confirming the nomination review of the Grande Ballroom to the National Register of Historic Places in Washington D.C. !

“This  project is in its final phase which consists of gathering input, from the public and interested parties, at the local and state level before the submission to the National Park Service for official listing on the National Register of Historic Places.”

The 62 page Grande Ballroom National Register Nomination Form can be accessed online at:

As we present the Ballroom in Lansing in Detroit, there is opportunity for public support and comment, which means YOU!

Per the process, there are 3 main ways you can comment on the nomination and the significance of the Grande Ballroom, up to and including the two review board meetings:

1 – By E-mail:  e-mail your comments of support directly to both; and

2 – By  Snail-mail: Letters of support or opposition can be sent to the HDAB and/or the SHPO office and will then become part of the public record.

Historic District Advisory Board

Coleman A. Young Municipal Center

2 Woodward Avenue, Suite 218

Detroit, Mi. 48226

State Historic Preservation Office

735 EAst MIchigan Avenue

P.O. Box 30044

Lansing, Mi, 48909

3 – In Person:

September 13,2018:

Historic District Advisory Board meeting, Certified Local Government Review

4 P.M.  Coleman A. Young Municipal Center

2 Woodward Avenue, Committee of the Whole, 13th Floor, Detroit


September 14, 2018:

State Historic Preservation Office Review Board Meeting

10 a.m. – Board Room – Fourth Floor

Michigan State Housing Development Authority

735 East Michigan, Lansing.



Thanks everyone for your support – let’s make this happen !!!

Leo Early










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Grande Ballroom opens October 27,1928!

“A Most Beautiful Dance Place”

In researching the book The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n’ Roll Palace I was only able to speculate, not confirm the official opening date of the Grande Ballroom operation. Thanks to research performed for the nomination to list the Grande on the National Register of Historic Places, the opening dates have been established.

I was aware that A.E. Burns held their retail grand opening the weekend of October 19th and 20th 1928.  However, it was formerly only assumed that the weekend before Halloween would be ideal for a public opening of the dance operation.

Grand Opening 10.27.28

Tiny ads that ran in the Detroit Free Press that week confirm a PUBLIC dance “Grand Opening” Saturday October 27th with “The Victors” dance band. The Victors enjoyed their booking well into the month of November that year.



Tuesday October 30,1928 – First Private Dance

A large banner from the September 11, 1928 Grande construction photograph boasted that the “First dance to be held  at the new ballroom..” was to be private, for the Geo. Monaghan Knights of Columbus. This dance was mentioned the following month in the Free Press.

Detroit Free Press 10.14.28


It also turns out, that same week in 1928 there was a bit of a transportation crisis in Detroit. By court order, “Jitneys” (short framed buses) had been banned from city streets and there was tremendous pressure on the streetcars. Even in 1928 not everyone owned a car. So chances were if you were going out dancing at that new ballroom, you were going by streetcar!

Lines at the Capitol Park – Grand River DSR streetcar line – 10.26.28


All images courtesy The Detroit Free Press.

Special thanks to Todd Walsh – SHPO, Lansing, Mi.









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Bluesbreaker (Grande book excerpt)

Eric at Olympia - credit Tom Weschler

Eric at Olympia – credit Tom Weschler

The “Godfather of British Blues,” John Mayall, and his Bluesbreakers had been booked for a three-day run at the Grande starting on October 11, 1968. Mayall had been mentor and bandleader to a number of young British guitar upstarts. These had included Eric Clapton, Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) and his most recent hire, nineteen-year-old Mick Taylor.
Clapton and British super group Cream were in the middle their farewell tour, a nineteen-venue, month-long concert sequence with a stop in Detroit on October 12. The band’s career had skyrocketed to dizzying heights since its first appearance at the Grande one year prior. It was so successful that the BBC reported in 1968 that the group had earned more than the “entire British government’s subsidy to the arts.” The band’s July 1968 Polydor release Wheels of Fire was the world’s first double LP ever to go platinum. Cream virtually filled the fifteen-thousand-seat Olympia Stadium that Saturday. The group’s unprecedented popularity raised its Detroit guarantee to $22,000, plus 60 percent of the gross over $40,000. Potential profits and attendance were roughly ten times what the Grande’s 1,500-person capacity could offer.
At the Grande that Saturday night, the local trio Third Power had thoroughly warmed up the audience, and by midnight, Mayall and his group were well into their set. Unlike the previous evening, there was a buzz building in the audience that night. Grande regulars and cognoscenti were aware that Cream and Clapton were playing at the Old Red Barn just down Grand River. At three dollars a ticket, John Mayall was a less expensive option, and some speculated about what might occur, considering the proximity of the two concerts. Just as Saturday turned into Sunday, some noticed Russ Gibb and a companion standing at the top of the stage stairs to the right of the audience. Edging forward from beside the Altec-Lansing speakers, Russ’s guest began to talk to Mayall as he played. The audience began stirring, and some rose to their feet. What they saw was the twenty-four-year-old guitarist from Cream asking permission to sit in with his old mates. Rick Patrny recalled, “I recognized Clapton. I jumped up and started poking the people around me saying, ‘Look it’s Clapton, it’s Clapton’ a number of people told me to shut up and sit down.”
As the music paused, twenty-four-year-old Eric Clapton took the stage for the last time at the Grande. Mick Taylor, falling to his knees, handed Clapton his prized Gibson Les Paul and began to kowtow to the prodigal Bluesbreaker. Patrny recalls that by this point anyone that had dozed off during John Mayall’s set had awoken,
“By this time, everyone was on their feet clapping and cheering. I don’t remember what they played other than that the first piece they played ran on for about 45 minutes. I believe they played one other tune for a few minutes, and then Clapton exited off the stage as magically as he came in. We all stood there awestruck.”
Touring America and playing ballrooms just like the Grande allowed Cream to build its American fan base. Clapton’s encore that night at the Grande, although likely orchestrated by Russ Gibb, was perhaps both a thank-you and a validation of the building’s role in Cream’s success. The group played its final concerts together at London’s Royal Albert Hall on November 25–26, 1968.

Mick Taylor – credit Ruth Hoffman


Clapton - Russ Gibb - credit Jim Price

Clapton – Russ Gibb – credit Jim Price


Clapton and the Bluesbreakers – Ruth Hoffman

Clapton and the Bluesbreakers - Ruth Hoffman

Clapton and the Bluesbreakers – Ruth Hoffman

Clapton w/ Dave Miller -r – credit Ruth Hoffman

For more images from this night and more stories, get the book!

The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace


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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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Grande Ballroom Analysis / Fund Kicks Off!

The Friends of the Grande are very pleased to announce the first crowdfunding campaign for the Grande Ballroom.
This initiative will fund a due diligence inspection and initial building safety projects
that will benefit the building and its owners Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
Already on board are major contributors such as Margaret Saadi Kramer and Wayne Kramer (formerly of the legendary Grande house act the MC5). Wayne and Margaret have kindly pledged matching funds to the project. Please join us by visiting the Gofundme Grande Analysis/Fund

Metro Times Article

The Grande Ballroom

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Save the Grande! F.O.G. volunteers meeting – Nov.13

This month’s Friends of the Grande Volunteer meeting will again be at the Techshop in Allen Park where I’ll provide updates on:

  • The National Register Nomination for the Grande Ballroom.
  • Crowdfunding update for the Structural Engineering Inspection costs.
  • Conditional plans for a larger stabilization/renovation fund.

If you cannot make it in person, please be sure to visit the F.O.G
Facebook Group page for the Facebook Live video stream!

See you there!

Leo Early

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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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