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Monday, September 10, 2012

Grande Ballroom, 8952 Grand River near Joy, Detroit, MI

Opened 1928
Architect: Charles N. Agree
Builder: E.W. Wood and Co.
Owner: Harry Weitzman

Originally served as a multi-purpose building, hosting retail business on the first floor and a large dance hall upstairs.[1] During this period the Grande was renowned for its outstanding hardwood dance floor which took up most of the second floor.

These Stone Initials appear beneath the windows at each corner of the Grande. All other windows featured an iron "window box" grating.
They are the first initials of Harry Weitzman's three children. His children were Clement, Dorothy and Seymour Weitzman.

December 12, 1944 Photo Courtesy The Burton Collection Detroit Public Library

Grand Opening 1966
In 1966 the Grande was acquired by Dearborn, Michigan, high school teacher and local radio DJ Russ Gibb. The property was leased from an attorney and land speculator named Gabe Glantz. Gibb was inspired by visiting San Francisco's Fillmore Theater, and envisioned a similar venue in Detroit for the new psychedelic music and a resource for local teenagers. Gibb worked closely with Detroit counterculture figure John Sinclair in bringing in bands, both from San Francisco and harder-edged psychedelic rock bands gathering around Detroit's Plum Street community like the MC5.
Russ Gibb


Grande back door

The Jeff Beck Group - November 1-3 1968
The line-up for this outing featured:
Jeff Beck - Guitar
Ron Wood  (Pre-Small Faces and Rolling Stones) - Bass
Nicky Hopkins - Piano
Mickey Waller -Drums
Rod Stewart  (Pre-Small Faces) - Vocals

Led Zeppelin performed here on three consecutive nights, January 17-19, 1969.

The Grande also featured the avant garde jazz of John Coltrane and Sun Ra.[3]
Performances of this period were frequently advertised by the distinctive psychedelic handbills of Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren.[4][5] The Grande's rock and roll countercultural experience was extensively documented by Detroit photographer Leni Sinclair.[6]

Since Gibb closed the Grande as a rock venue in 1972, the building has rarely been used and has fallen into a state of disrepair. The last gig at the Grande was December 31, 1972 and also happened to be the last gig the MC5 ever played.

The MC5 was considered the "house" band. One of the most memorable shows was when the MC5 opened for Cream. They obviously wanted to steal the show and they certainly did. At the end of their amazing set, during the normal wild finale, as John Sinclair was blowing the saxophone and some guy was standing there naked, they ripped up an American flag. Then they brought out a big bed sheet with the word "freak" written on it.
They yelled, "This is our new flag!"
Somewhere during the show, the drummer, Dennis Thompson, passed out. They carried him off the stage. A few minutes later they brought him back out, yelling, "He's all right! He’s going to play!"
It was a wild scene.

Cream was pretty good too, but they had a hard time matching the intensity of the MC5.

"I remember an Airplane show on a Sunday nite/2 show nite/ I hid all my friends in the attic so they wouldn't have to pay for the second show......well, we got high with Grace, Paul and Jorma...Jerry and Phil and Bob showed up about 12:30am and jammed with the Airplane till about 4:00am...Terry Reid also played two sets."(Craig Maceachern on

The dance hall was on the 2nd floor.

This is how it looked in 2003.
 Ownership of the Ballroom transferred in 2005 from one church to another.
Summer 2009

As of 2010 it remained inactive and open to redevelopment.[1]

Jerry performed here on
11/24/68 Jefferson Airplane (7)
"worked at the Grande for 3 yrs......the Dead, the Airplane and Procol Harum were the best of all.........I remember an airplane show on a sunday nite/2 show nite/ I hid all my friends in the attic so they wouldn't have to pay for the second show......well, we got high w/Grace, Paul and Jorma.........Jerry and Phil and Bob showed up about 12:30 and jammed with the Airplane til about 4:00 in the morning."(7)
8/11/67 Grateful Dead
8/12/67 Grateful Dead
12/1/68 Grateful Dead

1.)^ Austin, Dan (2009). "Grande Ballroom". Buildings of Detroit.
2.)^McCollum, Brian (1 October 2006). "Strobe Lights, Longhairs and the Smell of Pot: 40 years later, rockers remember Detroit's Grande Ballroom". Detroit Free Press  

4.)^ "Gary Grimshaw Biography". Gary Grimshaw Music Art. 2006 5.)^Lundgren, Carl. 5.)^Lundgren, Carl."Artobiography". Carl Lundgren Art Studios.
6.)^Handyside, Chris (4 February 2004). "Leni Sinclair: Rock photography’s overlooked grand matriarch". Metro Times (Detroit).
7.)^Maceachern, Craig,


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