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.