Archive for April, 2012

Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, “Riffs and Contexts”

April 5, 2012
1966 Artwork by Rob Tyner

1966 Artwork by Rob Tyner

Louder Than Love, the new documentary film about Detroit’s Grande Ballroom opens in Detroit tonight.  I won’t be going though.  Both shows are sold out, hours before showtime.  I should have got tickets when I was at the Detroit Institute of Arts last Sunday.  So it goes.

There are two things I forgot.  Rock and Roll is big business and everybody loves the home team.  Hopefully it’ll play elsewhere, and soon.

I never went to a show at the Grande.  I do have memories of driving by it with friends, just to check out the scene.   I think we tried to get into a show once, but it was sold out or decided not to go in.  Thus, I do have vague memories of its exterior, back when it was a going concern.

If I was 2 or 3 years older, I’m sure I’d have gone there.  I did get to see the MC5 and the Stooges, in the early 1970’s.

I’ve gone past its empty, abandoned shell many times.  I’ve seen that.

The picture above was a newspaper ad for the first Grande show.  It may also have been a flyer or poster.

I was going to reconstruct a partial list of Grande shows here.  Then,  I found that that’s already been done at this site here:

Other Detroit Clubs of that era: The Drumbeat Club, The Absolute Zero Coffee house, The Poison Apple, The Raven Gallery, The Et Cetera, The Chessmate, The Living End.

Happening in Detroit: In October 1966, Robert Kennedy visited Detroit.  Vietnam War protests grew more frequent.  In 1967, the scene included Plum Street, John Sinclair and the MC5,  the May “Belle Isle Love In.”  Then there was the Detroit Uprising (popularly known as the Detroit Riots).  1968 was the year of many protests and the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

Some show I’d liked to have seen there: 

On the Jazz and “Rhythm and Blues” fronts, in 1967 on December 29-30, John Lee Hooker in 1968 on August 30 & 31 Howlin’ Wolf on September 6, 7 & 8 B.B. King.  Then, in 1969, on April 18 & 19 Chuck Berry on May 16 Sun Ra & Led Zeppelin and (the next night) Sun Ra & the MC5 on June 27 & 28 Chuck Berry & Slim Harpo on August 15 & 16 Bo Diddley

Then, various pop and rock music, in 1967 on November 25 & 26 The Fugs & The MC5 on December 9 Moby Grape & the MC5.  Then, in 1968, on February 18 The Byrds on March 9 The Who on March 29 to 30 Sly and the Family Stone & the Fugs June 1  Love, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown & the Psychedelic Stooges on July 13 The Who & Pink Floyd on October 12 Eric Clapton sat in with John Mayall as a “surprise guest” (after playing with Cream in another part of town) then on October 30 & 31 the MC5 recorded their first record for Elektra.  In 1969, on February 22 & 23 the Paul Butterfield Blues Band & Van Morrison on April 11,12 & 13 The Velvet Underground & the Nice.  On January 23 1971, Phil Ochs did a benefit for the Winter Soldier investigation.

I could go on and on (Janis Joplin & Big Brother and Holding Company, the Kinks, Tim Buckley etc.)  But yes, there were some sweet shows there, to be sure.

Then, not at the Grande, but produced by Russ Gibb.  On February 23, 1968 Jimi Hendrix played the Masonic Theatre.  Soft Machine, the MC5 and the Rationals opened the show.  On November 12, Hendrix played Detroit again, at Cobo Hall.

The official Grande Ballroom site:

The new Documentary film:

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