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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Grande Ballroom green lit for National Register of Historic Places process / restoration

Grande Ballroom green lit for National Register of Historic Places process / restoration.

I am pleased to announce that this week I met with the owners of the Grande Ballroom, Chapel Missionary Baptist Church represented by Pastor Dr. R. Lamont Smith II.  This meeting was held to discuss their support for the Grande Ballroom building’s potential and to officially sign off on owner approval of our application to the National Register of Historic Places. Based upon the information we gathered during our inspection visit in October, we believe that it is viable to secure, stabilize and salvage the structure.  Public input is being sought for potential uses for the building.

Leo Early (left) and Dr. R. Lamont Smith II w/ the historic nomination approval.


Dr. Smith and myself were also featured in this recent HUB Detroit article.

Road to Resurrection: Pastor crusades to save historic ballroom

Stay tuned for more on these initiatives.


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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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Leo Early book signing Oakland Mall Feb.18

leo early

After a short break to recover from the whirlwind of book events since our October launch, I am back on the road! I’ll be signing copies of The Grande Ballroom Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace at Oakland Mall Saturday February 18. This time the major event is WCSX’s 2nd Annual Classic Rock Swap. Within the perimeter of the swap, shoppers can buy, sell, trade CD’s LP’s, music memorabilia and yes BOOKS! It runs from 10-5, hope to see you there!

WCSX 2nd Annual Classic Rock Swap

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The Alabama Theater – cousin of the Grande – Video

In researching the Grande Ballroom Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace I learned of the Architects Graven and Mayger and their involvement in Detroit architecture and two significant Southern movie palaces. Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the pair, the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville and the massive Alabama theater in Birmingham. Through the largesse of their staff I was able to shoot a ton of photos and video and get many of my questions answered. At the Alabama our day closed with a special movie screening. The State of Alabama had developed a reading program for elementary school children. Any child that read his or her quota of books for the semester was awarded a special field trip. This semester’s trip was an excursion to the Alabama to see Disney’s “Ratatouille”, soda pop and popcorn included. The audio I recorded is the demonstration of the the Theater organ by Cecil Whitmire, organist and manager of the theater. The demo is immediately followed by a sing along with hundreds of kids joining in.

The Alabama Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society saved the Alabama from the wrecking ball in the 80s. The exceedingly rare Wurlitzer pipe organ, known today as “Big Bertha”, is a centerpiece of the facility. Mr. Whitmire explained that volunteers were at a loss on how to begin the modern restoration, when one day the phone magically rang; “On the other end was a fella from the company that had purchased the assets of a firm that once was the Publix theater management company. He said; we have Grayven and Mayger blueprints for the Alabama, would you like them? So, for the cost of shipping they sent dozens of the blueprints to us from Atlanta.” These original blueprints were invaluable to the restoration of this marvelous Southern gem that in 1993 became the Official Historic Theatre of Alabama.

Alabama Theater from Leo Early on Vimeo.


For more.. get the book!


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Author Leo Early – Drew and Mike Podcast

I had a blast talking about the Grande with Drew Lane and Marc Fellhauer from the Drew and Mike podcast Wednesday. These guys are Detroit broadcasting stalwarts and real pros! You’ll be able to catch me at the 24:00 minute mark.

Drew And Mike – Dec 14, 2016 – Part 1

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Leo Early Book Signing @ Barnes & Noble Dec.10

barnesI’ve certainly spent a lot of time in the past haunting book stores and Barnes and Noble is no exception. Therefore, it will be a big thrill for me to be signing copies of the Grande Ballroom Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace at their super sized Fairlane Green location Saturday 2-4 P.M. Even Santa knows this is the hip gift for the music lover on your list!

Fairlane Green
3120 Fairlane Drive
Allen Park, MI 48101

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Y ARTS’ Rockin’ art Bash

Saturday evening November 26 Y Arts Detroit will be holding a benefit at their downtown YMCA Facility. Y Arts provides area youth and families with high quality arts classes and events. As part of this fundraiser the Y will be exhibiting the award winning Grande Documentary “Louder than Love” in their Marlene Boll theater. Immediately following the film there will be a Q&A discussion with the film’s director Tony D’Annunzio. Tony will be joined by Leo Early Author of  “The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace”, and original Grande poster Artist Carl Lundgren. Also featured will be live music from students of the Detroit Institute of Music Education or DIME and the works of legendary Grande artist Gary Grimshaw.  An available VIP reception includes food and drink, as well as rock-themed gifts and auction opportunities.



“Y Arts is the Arts and Humanities branch of The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. We are a resource for the community and the YMCAs in our association for high quality arts instruction and events. We give emerging artists a place to exhibit and perform their works as well as offering employment opportunities for teaching artists.

Located within the Boll Family YMCA in the heart of Detroit, Y Arts partners with Y facilities, schools, and other organizations to provide programs and services throughout Southeast Michigan. Our on-site facilities include a public gallery space, a 160 seat black box theatre, art studios equipped with tools for a wide variety of disciplines.”


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Grande Ballroom Lecture and Book Signing w/ Leo Early and Carl Lundgren

Tuesday evening November 15 from 7-9 P.M. come join author-historian Leo Early and Grande Ballroom poster Artist Carl Lundgren for a tandem lecture and book signing at the Dearborn Historical Museum. This event is free and open to the public. Titles will be available for purchase, seating is limited.

Mcfadden-Ross House 915 S Brady St, Dearborn, MI 48124


The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace 

Leo Early – Foreword by Russ Gibb



The Psychedelic Rock Art of Carl Lundgren 

Carl Lundgren



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A Grande Opening 1928 – Burns Shoes – Web exclusive

In The Grande Ballroom – Detroit’s Rock n Roll Palace there were a few stories that did not make the final edit. So too were some great newsprint images that did not make the final. One such story that is tied to the original Grande building opening month of 1928 was that of Burns Shoes, one of the charter merchants. Burns’ flagship store was located at Grand River and Griswold in the Holden building. The store at Grand River and Beverly was their Northwestern chain expansion and fourth location. This location featured a very narrow “L” shape with minimal frontage on both streets, skirting the perimeter of the corner drug store. A main floor plus a children’s department in the basement was packed floor to ceiling with shoes. A.E. Burns spared no expense in advertising their grand opening buying a multiple page “Burns Section” published in the back of the Detroit Free Press.


Detroit Free Press October 19, 1928

“Joy Road Zone Spreads Fast”

 Burns Shoe Store finds it Necessary to Establish New Store at Grand River.

At the intersection of Joy Road and Grand River is probably the fastest-growing shopping center in the city of Detroit, according to an explanation advanced Saturday by officials of the Burns Shoe company. Nine large downtown retails stores, serving the city at large, have established branch stores here in recent months.Practically every article of merchandise necessary in maintaining a home and equipping a family is represented in these branches. There is a branch candy and baked goods store; a branch jewelry store, shoe store, lingerie stores, music and radio store; and a branch of a popular downtown 5c to $1.00 store.

Lots of other stores

In addition, there is one of the best equipped markets in the city here. Two theaters offer high grade entertainment, There is a school of music. School of dancing, Two ballrooms and a large recreation building. Seven branches of downtown banks have been built here for the convenience of residents in this Grand River and Joy road area. And there are many specialty stores, which, added to the rest, make it possible to purchase practically anything in this new shopping center, it was explained.

“We have selected a location for our new branch store which will enable this company to better serve the people of Detroit,” said one official. “It is practically within sight of the intersection and it fronts on both Grand River and Beverly Court. It is,to all purposes a replica of our downtown store, having a basement in which the more popular-priced footwear is featured.”



A.E. Burns Shoes – Grand River entrance


Ornate children’s basement department looking south up the Grand River stairs.


Main floor and staircase looking in from Grand River entrance. Rear stock wall to Beverly Street is visible.


2016 Inspection team passes Grand River Burns staircase to rear of building.


Store 5 (Burns Shoes) Store 6 Economical Drugs (Cunninghams) Blueprint

Store 5 (Burns Shoes) Store 6 Economical Drugs (Cunninghams) Blueprint


Flagship Store

The Holden building was completed in 1916 and became A.E. Burns’ flagship store. Today it is owned by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services and is home to the Detroit Institute of Music Education or DIME.



Burns Shoes at the Holden Building October 1928


Detroit Institute of Music Education (Holden Building)


For more, Get the book at AMAZON

Photos courtesy the Detroit Free Press and DIME


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