Detroit’s Grande Ballroom

Jeff Beck Group and Rod Stewart at the Grande Ballroom

Jeff Beck Group and Rod Stewart at the Grande Ballroom, photo courtesy Louder Than Love

The documentary Louder Than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story premieres on Detroit Public Television this Friday (Dec 18) at 8 PM. Dan Austin of Historic Detroit has a great look at the history of Detroit’s Grande Ballroom that says (in part):

Designed in 1928 by Charles N. Agree for dance hall entrepreneurs Edward J. Strata and his partner Edward J. Davis, the Grande started off as a place Detroiters would go to dance and listen to jazz and big band sounds, but it would later achieve immortal status in the annals of music history as a rock venue. It is arguably the birthplace of punk and hard-driving rock, where bands like The MC5 and The Stooges cut their chops and became legends.

The building was designed in the Moorish Deco style and contained storefront space on the first floor and on the second a ballroom with Moorish arches featuring a floor on springs that gave dancers the feeling of floating. The dance floor held 1,500 dancers and was one of the largest in the city. Its ground floor had several retail tenants, such as W.T. Grant Department Stores, Beverly’s and a drugstore. The neighborhood was a predominately Jewish enclave in the 1930s and ’40s.

…Russ Gibb, a social studies teacher at Maples Junior High School in Dearborn was a popular local radio DJ at the time. Gibb took a trip out to San Francisco to visit a friend in early 1966 and paid a visit to the storied Fillmore Auditorium and saw The Byrds. When he returned to Detroit, he set out to bring Bill Graham’s Fillmore to the Motor City. He scouted out several locations, including the then-closed, since-demolished Gayety Burlesque theater on Cadillac Square downtown and the ballroom of the Statler Hotel on Grand Circus Park, which also has been razed. He settled on the Grande, which was near the neighborhood he grew up in back in the 1940s and entered a rent-to-buy deal with the Kleinman family.

Read on for the story of how the Grande Ballroom grew through local acts like the MC5 to become the place to play in Detroit in the late 60s, hosting amazing acts including Led Zeppelin, John Lee Hooker, the Yardbirds, The Who, Cream, Pink Floyd, Canned Heat, the Jeff Beck Group, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, the Velvet Underground, Canned Heat, and many more.

Watch the trailer for the movie below and see many more photos of the Grande past & present, on the Louder Than Love website. Also don’t miss their collection of posters for some of the concerts at the Grande Ballroom from artists Gary Grimshaw, Carl Lundgren, and Donnie Dope and be sure to check out the Louder Than Love group on Facebook for many more great photos!

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