I spent the weekend in Detroit, which isn’t necessarily a new thing for me. My father grew up there, and my grandparents remained there until the end of their days, and so I, as a result, passed many a long weekend in Motor City. But this trip was different because for the first time in my almost 28 years, I actually explored the city beyond the very suburban confines of Southfield, Birmingham, and Royal Oak. To say it was an eye-opener would be an understatement; it was more of a soul shocker. Detroit is a city rich in history and architecture that has been virtually abandoned, leaving a handful of unbelievably cool, and totally unique cultural moments. This week I am going to post my favorites, beginning with the Grande Ballroom.
Built in the 20s as a ballroom for dancing, the Grande Ballroom was later resurrected in 1966 when it was purchased by an unlikely duo – a Dearborn, Michigan high school teacher and local radio DJ Russ Gibb. The venue was meant to be a Fillmore Theater for Detroit, and Gibb worked alongside counterculture god John Sinclair to create a home for psychedelic rock in the city.
Everyone played in the Grande Ballroom. Its stage hosted the likes of Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Alice Cooper, Cream, The Who, John Coltrane, the Rolling Stones, and Sun Ra; the venue’s house bands – The MC5 and The Stooges! The legendary Kick Out The Jams was even recorded during a live performance at the Grande Ballroom in 1968.
There isn’t much left of the Grande Ballroom today. but that’s kind of the case with most of the city. The history, though, is just beyond incredible.